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Maurice Edward's story

Maurice was born in England in the mid-1940s. His mother was unmarried, and signed the adoption papers believing he was to live with a couple who could not have children. However, this couple soon sent him to a Sisters of Nazareth orphanage, where he was sexually abused.

This abuse happened in his dormitory, when the gardener came in and offered him lollies. After Maurice accepted the sweets, the man made Maurice masturbate him. The gardener threatened to kill him if he told anyone about it.

During his time at the orphanage, Maurice formed a relationship with another family, the Murrays. They wanted to adopt him, but the nuns obstructed this process. This was because the orphanage raised children to be provided to a boys’ home in Western Australia. ‘I was basically kidnapped ... But they were able to cover that with that cloak of charity.’

Maurice was seven when he was sent to Australia by boat, and was extremely distressed at being taken from his potential family. ‘I lost my will to live, and contemplated suicide by climbing the ship’s rails and falling into the sea.’

The Christian Brothers at the boys’ home reigned ‘by terror’. Frequent, severe corporal punishment was ‘just normal’. ‘My memory is of a howl. There was always a howl somewhere around the premises. A boy that’s being strapped ... I think it was also that howling that kept us all in line.’

The children at the home were known by number, not name, stripping them of their identities. One of the Brothers would tell them, ‘You don’t deserve anything. We should have left you in the gutter where we found you, naked in the gutter’.

Maurice said the children would laugh at this, ‘but when you think back, he thought – like a lot of them did – that we were the scum of the earth, and should be treated as such’.

The cruel treatment the Christian Brothers doled out confused Maurice. He was Catholic and believed that Jesus would not hurt a small child.

There was a man who often visited the home, giving lollies to the boys. The Brothers would just watch as he put his hand up the boys’ trousers, and allowed him to take boys back to his apartment.

‘He never touched me. Because I was aware, after my experience in England being assaulted by the gardener, and him threatening to kill me ... what he was doing was obviously very wrong. And I would just not let anyone come near me.’

Maurice’s dormitory was supervised by Brother Stanley. He would approach the boys at bedtime, telling them they could have the lollies from under his pillow if they warmed his bed for him. The boys who went to his room did not come out again for a long time.

When Maurice was nine he fell ill, and was left alone in the dormitory to recover while the other boys watched a movie. Brother Stanley approached him with this offer of sweets, inviting him to go to his room and eat them.

Although wary, Maurice went and ate the lollies, then quickly returned to the dormitory. Pretending to be asleep, he locked his arms underneath the bedframe when he heard Brother Stanley come in.

The Brother tried to rouse Maurice, pulling roughly at his genitals and attempting to drag him from his bed. He eventually left, but returned soon after, telling Maurice he was bad for eating the lollies, and assaulting him again. This continued until the other boys came back from their excursion.

Brother Stanley did not try to sexually abuse Maurice again, but bullied and intimidated him throughout his time at the home.

At shower times, Brother Stanley would watch the boys intently, and inspect them thoroughly to ensure they were clean. ‘It was just his way of humiliating you – or just his way of getting his rocks off.’ A different Brother would try to kiss Maurice, with his rotten, cigarette breath.

The boys had regular ‘holiday families’ they visited every three weeks. Maurice lived for these visits as the mother there treated him with a great deal of affection. ‘It was something I couldn’t do without ... You craved being loved.’

At the home, Maurice lived in a state of constant alertness, and tried to avoid attention. ‘Trying to be invisible was what I was always trying to be. If I could be invisible that was the best place to be. You were constantly watched.’

When Maurice was 11 he moved to a Christian Brothers’ farm school. Most of his years there were spent doing very hard physical labour, for which he was never paid.

The welfare department always had trouble inspecting these institutions, and the boys could never speak to their officers without a Brother present. Maurice thinks some officers made complaints on behalf of the children, but these were ignored by the government.

Maurice knew that he would not be believed if he disclosed the abuse to adults, as the Brothers were placed on a pedestal. Later in life, he avoided telling his partners about the abuse. ‘There was a good reason for that. I always knew, in those days, people were saying that if you were abused you were likely to abuse.’

Maurice met his biological mother and family in the 1980s. He learned she had not ‘abandoned’ him, like his files said, but had surrendered him believing he would go to loving parents. She was shocked and angry to find out he had been sent overseas as a child migrant. He also discovered his half-siblings had happy and wealthy upbringings and good educations while he suffered in a far-away country.

Maurice received a payment from a state redress scheme, and is attempting to obtain compensation from the Christian Brothers. They offered a payment with regards to the sexual abuse, which he has not yet accepted, but not for his lost wages or initial removal by an ‘utterly corrupted system’.

In later years Maurice experienced depression after seeing media reports about child sexual abuse at a similar institution, and his GP prescribed medication for this. He has since written extensively about his life in care.

After nearly 50 years he was reunited with the Murrays, who had wanted to adopt him in England. Mrs Murray held a welcome party, inviting all her neighbours in the street. ‘And she was saying “My boy, my boy’s back! I’ve got my boy” ... She just wouldn’t let me go.’

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