Maurice knew what it meant when Sister Eunice locked the classroom door.
Eunice was his class teacher at his Catholic primary school in regional New South Wales. She spoke to his mother after church one Sunday, and said he needed extra help with his reading.
So every morning seven-year-old Maurice was sent to meet Eunice before class, for her to tutor him. The first couple of times, the two of them sat together and read.
‘Then one day, she asked me to take my pants off. So I just pulled my pants down, I still had my underpants on, and she said “Take your underpants off too”. I just couldn’t understand why I had to do that.’
He faced away from Eunice, as she instructed him to. Raised in the 1960s, in a strict and devoutly Catholic family, Maurice always obeyed adults – especially members of the clergy.
Eunice fondled Maurice, and penetrated his anus with an object. ‘I don’t know what was pushed inside me, but I know it hurt.’
After this, the sexual abuse happened many times, and was always of a similar nature. It was not every morning, but ‘the nun would come in, she’d lock the door, and I knew’.
Father Camilleri, the parish priest, also participated in the abuse. At first it was just Eunice, then ‘down the track he came in ... They used to like blindfold me, so I didn’t see who was in the room. But after they’d take the blindfold off, down the track he was in the room as well’.
When they had finished molesting Maurice, Camilleri would cane him and say, ‘You know what that’s for, don’t you?’ Maurice understood this to be a threat not to tell anyone about the abuse.
This abuse continued for three years, until Eunice left. During this period, Maurice was also stalked and propositioned walking home from school.
One afternoon he was hit from behind by a silver Rolls Royce, which was moving at a very low speed. The man inside was well dressed, with little crosses on his collared shirt. He tried to lure Maurice into the car by offering him lollies, but Maurice refused.
This man would drive past Maurice from time to time, sometimes disappearing for months before suddenly being there again. Maurice was constantly fearful that he would be kidnapped or sexually abused by the man, and was always looking around for the car.
If he saw it, he would run away through the bushes so he could not be followed. Maurice remembers that the man had links to the parish church somehow, but does not know what his role was.
One day he was out with his parents, and saw the car parked. He pointed it out to his mother, telling her that this vehicle had followed him. She whispered something to his father, and nothing more was said.
‘I just thought then, “Well, I’m on my own. I’ve just got to deal with this”.’
He did not tell his parents about Camilleri and Eunice.
After the abuse ceased, Maurice was still very nervous and unable to concentrate, and therefore had difficulty with his studies. When he got to high school he felt he was far behind everyone else, and left early to learn a trade.
Throughout his life he has used work as a way to deal with the sexual abuse and other traumas, and still works full time in his 60s. ‘I’m pretty lost if I don’t have work.’
Recently, after his father died, Maurice reported Camilleri and Eunice to the police. He was advised that Camilleri is deceased, and Eunice is elderly and unfit for questioning. He has not contacted the Church, or applied for any compensation at this stage.
Maurice never told his brothers, wife or sons about the abuse. He stopped going to church except for weddings and funerals, and ensured his children did not go to a Catholic school.
He told the Royal Commission he has dealt with the abuse well over the years, and hasn’t experienced depression or anxiety. He acknowledges, however, ‘it’s become a bit difficult of late’.
Media reporting about child sexual abuse has reminded him of his own experiences, and made him more aware of the extent of this abuse in the community. ‘I didn’t realise it happened as much as it did.’