‘I wasn’t game to talk to anybody about it. Now, I fell in love with the Boy Scouts Association and I still do, regardless of this what I call obscenity. I don’t believe the word paedophile is really the correct name; it should be bloody criminal.’
Matthew told the Commissioner that he was hoping to ‘contribute something’ by speaking out about the sexual abuse he’d experienced more than 60 years ago.
‘It was a taboo item. Nobody wanted to talk about it, and particularly parents. And my mum, she didn’t know. She wouldn’t have known what to say’, he said.
In his early teens, Matthew joined his local scout group and was away most weekends hiking and camping throughout Victoria. However, he soon left this first group after one of the scout leaders became overly familiar and affectionate which Matthew thought was ‘not good’. The leader had done so after finding out that Matthew didn’t have a father.
At a second group, Matthew found a trusted father figure in scout leader Dan Egan who became an important and positive mentor to him for many years. Matthew’s own father had served in World War I and left the family at war’s end, never to be seen again.
On one camping trip in 1948, George Fraser, who’d been assistant to Egan, took a group of boys away by himself. Fraser suggested that Matthew sleep naked and during the night reached over and started to rub Matthew’s genitals. He then forced Matthew’s hand into his sleeping bag and made him reciprocate.
‘I was shocked and didn’t know what to do’, Matthew said. ‘All my friends were asleep in the hut. If I cried out they would have known that there was a problem but I was worried that it would be my word against George Fraser’s.’
The following morning, Matthew was incensed when Fraser kept smiling at him. ‘I was very tempted to go across and grab a frying pan off the cooker and smash him over the head. Now where would that have gone?’
Matthew warned his friends about this ‘poofter bloke’ because didn’t ‘want anybody else to get hurt’.
When Fraser tried the same thing the following night with another boy, Matthew took action. ‘I picked up my boots and I just smashed him over the head. I just belted the shit out of him. And he’s going, “Oh no, no, no. What are you doing? What are you doing?” I said, “Just keep doing this mate”. I said, “You won’t get home. We’ll finish you off”.’
At first light, Matthew demanded that Fraser drive them all home. When the boys told Egan about the events of the second night, Egan sacked Fraser ‘on the spot’.
Matthew said he’d made a conscious decision not to let the abuse ‘dominate’ his life. He became a scout leader, and was alert to suspicious behaviour among the troops he led or placed his sons in. He spoke out several times when adults acted inappropriately. Whenever he did so, the person generally left the troop.
Throughout his life, the abuse has been in the back of Matthew’s mind, and he regrets not telling Egan what Fraser did to him. ‘Gradually over the years I had pushed the incident farther away to allow me to get on with living and becoming a family man to my wonderful and understanding wife and my two great sons’, he said.
‘I learnt to contain my intense hatred and learned from my scouting friends how to overcome the sexual assault I suffered. I learnt to move onwards to a better lifestyle.’
In the late 1980s, Matthew disclosed the abuse to his wife, telling her he wanted to ‘do something about it’. He rang Victoria Police and when he mentioned George Fraser’s name, the officer told him that Fraser was ‘on a list’. Nothing further was done and Matthew didn’t make a formal statement.
Matthew also told his sons briefly about the abuse when they were pre-teens. ‘[I said], “Yes fellas, I’m going to tell you a couple of things”. Didn’t go into it too deep. I just said, “You two boys have a role to play, and it’s this: you’re going to look after [each other] at every moment of the day so that you’re both safe, cared for and in no problem situations”. I’ve never had an ounce of problems with either of them. So whether I’ve solved it, only time can tell.’
‘I determined in my own life this wasn’t going to happen to any boy that I had anything to do with … I did say, “You must remain alert to where you’re placed, what you’re doing, where you are and how you’re doing it, so that if any situation happens to arise then you can take action. If you get caught out of order because you haven’t done your homework, like Baden-Powell said, “Be prepared”.’