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Mervyn Luke's story

Mervyn was made a ward of the state of Victoria in the late 1940s, not long after he was born, and his siblings were all placed in care too. At the age of 11 he was sent to a St John of God boys’ home, and almost immediately encountered Brother Melchior.

The Brother presided over the kitchen, and so was able to trap Mervyn and other boys alone there and in the storerooms. He would masturbate the boys and make them perform oral sex on him, and he anally raped Mervyn.

The boys would discuss this abuse amongst themselves when they were outside the home’s walls to avoid being overheard. ‘I knew later on that there was a lot of other boys that was sexually abused as well at the time. Because the only time we talked a lot about it was when we went outside to play and that, in the paddocks.’

There was another Brother who molested Mervyn too, though he wasn’t as bad as Brother Melchior.

Sometimes Mervyn’s mum would come out to visit him but ‘I couldn’t bring myself to tell her’ about the abuse.

Mervyn approached one of the ‘good Brothers’, who was in charge, and said ‘I want to have a talk to you about two Brothers that’s been interfering with me in the dormitories and that’. The Brothers ‘just seemed to stick together’ however, and Mervyn ‘was given a punch across the face and told to get out ... I couldn’t understand why he punched me in the face’.

Soon after Mervyn left the home and had started working he tried to report it to another Brother who ‘was like a father to us’ but was told to leave as ‘I don’t want to hear any of this rubbish’. As soon as he got outside he cried as he had trusted this man.

Outside of this, ‘I just couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone’. Reporting to the police did not appeal to him back then. ‘I never even gave it a thought. Because there was many times I’d go past the [local] police station, I just couldn’t put myself through it.’

He now thinks however that if he’d spoken up earlier people might have helped him access legal support and other services.

‘If I would have said something years ago, when I was working in factories, someone probably have helped me. They would have said “Mervyn, you need help” ... I would have needed psychiatrists, you name it, I needed everything. Because my nerves were that bad, and it was always on my record that I was put down as a very nervous boy, according to my papers.’

Mervyn maintains contact with some of the boys he grew up with, and knows that others were sexually abused at different institutions run by the Brothers.

Together with three other survivors Mervyn sought compensation in recent years, with the assistance of a legal firm, and received a payment of $20,000. He made a statement to police in the presence of a solicitor, but the matter was not followed up that he knows of. ‘It was very hard for me ... you start breaking down a bit.’

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