‘During my life the abuse has been constantly on my mind. I think about what happened to me and wonder what my life would have been like if [they] hadn't abused me … It's ruined me. They've ruined me for life … I can't have a normal relationship.’
Michael was the eldest of four children who, in the early 1960s, were all taken into care by the welfare services in Victoria. Michael stayed with his younger siblings in a children’s home but his ‘uncontrollable’ behaviour was difficult for staff to manage.
He was made a ward of the state when he was five years old and when he was about six or seven years old, he was sent to a boys’ home run by the Brothers of St John of God. Soon after Michael arrived at the home, one of the Brothers, Brother Mackenzie, began to sexually abuse him.
‘Masturbation, head jobs … that’s about it … When he was abusive the alcohol and the cigarettes came out … I sort of thought [it was] bribery for the abusive behaviour.’
The Brothers built a new home, designed specifically to provide care, training and treatment programs for boys with severe or profound intellectual disabilities. In the final stages of construction of the new home, Brother Mackenzie would take Michael with him to help set up the beds and linen. They would stay overnight and Michael would be abused every night.
Once the boys all transferred to the new home, the Brother continued to abuse Michael most nights and often in the mornings before mass. The abuse continued for years.
‘[It didn’t] feel good when he did this but my penis did come hard each time. It seemed to me that he must have enjoyed masturbating me as he kept coming back to do this each night.’
When Michael was about 10 or 11 years old the Brother left the home. Soon after, a senior Brother, Brother Carson, began to sexually abuse Michael. This abuse was similar to the abuse Brother Mackenzie had committed against Michael but soon progressed to more serious assaults.
‘He found out about an incident between me and a young girl on the school bus. He goes to me, “I didn’t know you was like that, Michael” and I said “What?” … and then he started like rubbing me in the front and I got very disturbed about it. From then onwards it just continued.’
The assaults were extreme and frequent, sometimes a number of times a day. They included anal penetration and occurred both in the home and when Michael was taken on holidays. This abuse continued until Michael was 18 years old.
‘He was a very cunning person. He would abuse people when there was nobody around … Many occasions and many places … many different ways.’
Michael would commit petty crimes in the hope that the police would take him away from the home.
‘I was hoping that I would have been charged by the police and had been placed into [a] juvenile justice centre and I could have told someone about the abuse by Brother Carson.’
But the police always brought him back to the Brothers. Michael had no one to speak to about his abuse. No welfare officer visited and he had no contact with his family. He was also isolated in his school community, as many of the boys in the home were.
‘That’s why we felt very alone. The boys [from the home] … are very lonely because we used to spend our morning tea … and lunchtime by ourselves because no one would be willing to come near us.’
Michael believed that no one else knew about Brother Carson’s abuse but now realises that many other boys were also abused by Brothers while at the home.
‘To me, the Brothers of St John of God just seemed to be covering everything up. They're a larger paedophile ring than what the priests are … It wasn't just only priests, it was Brothers as well.’
When Michael was 18 years old he left the home. Soon after he was charged with sex offences.
‘I ended up getting in trouble with the police. Sex-related advantages between children.’
Since then he has spent the majority of his life behind bars on sexual offences. Michael is viewed as a serious, serial sex offender by the authorities and he has no support outside jail. He will now remain on supervision orders even though he has completed his recent sentence.
‘I find it very hard not to commit a crime so that’s why I thought this time I’ll [remain under supervision].’
In prison he has undertaken a number of sex offender programs. Two in particular have been helpful, one which asked him to ‘put your feet in the victim’s shoes’ and another that offers phone support.
‘If you need help … if you feel as though you’re starting to go downhill you can contact this person and they’ll arrange for a counsellor.’
In recent years, Michael has spoken about his abuse to a number of people, including the police. Brother Carson has been convicted of child sexual abuse for offences against Michael and a number of other boys in the home and is in jail. Brother Mackenzie has not been charged as yet but Michael has made a statement to police.
‘There’s a lot of people who can’t come forward because they’ve felt guilty and committed suicide. I’m one of the strong victims.’
Michael too, has had low periods.
‘I've spoken about suicide … but why give these arseholes the privilege? "Oh, he's committed suicide, he couldn't hack it." Yes, well, I'm not going to give these two the privilege to make themselves feel good. They should be accountable for what they done to me …
‘Nothing can bring the dignity back what they took from us when we were young children. We were stolen, our hearts were stolen from us and [nothing] is ever going to bring that back.’
Michael is hoping to gain access to his complete welfare records from the Brothers, although the process has been fruitless so far. He has received a small amount of financial compensation from the Brothers of St John of God but is seeking assistance from the knowmore legal service to pursue them further.
‘People say, "Oh, look, you know, we'll offer you this amount of money in compensation", and that. What compensation is going to bring back my life?’