Mick grew up in regional New South Wales and attended a Catholic primary school run by the Marist Brothers.
Discipline at the school was very harsh. ‘We used to get the cane. Six of the best. You’ve got someone that’s six foot tall jumping up and down with a … long piece of cane flogging you when you’re a six and seven and eight and nine-year-old kid … It just seemed that they’d do what they want … I guess that was all normalised back then.’
Brother Henry was Mick’s form teacher in the early 1970s, when he was about seven or eight. ‘He would often force us to strip naked as a group and sit, stand, or do jumps for his entertainment … Even as terrified kids we knew he was wanking under his habit. It’s just that we had no power to stop it happening.’
Sometimes individual boys were singled out to stand naked in front of the class. ‘When the teacher’s head is just exploding and veins are popping out … you sort of know in your own heart even then that it’s not right. We’d all sit there and shudder. Just as we would if someone were singled out to go and do naked star jumps.’
On the days that other boys were singled out, ‘the rest of us … would feel pity and think ourselves lucky that day. Those are the days I would go home after school and shut myself in the bedroom and curl up in a ball in the corner on the bed, or under it’.
Mick told his mother that Brother Henry was making the boys strip naked and had also been showing him and another boy pictures of naked women in a magazine. His mother went to see the headmaster, and his response was, ‘You pregnant women. You’re all the same. All these stupid ideas in your head’.
The rest of Mick’s years at school, ‘in general are a blur. I remember a couple of bad things. We did have a teacher at high school who was probably just a very caring man, but to me at the time I was so homophobic about things that I took that as a threat and when he put his hand on a shoulder to console me … I’d [recoil]’.
All Mick wanted was to ‘get the hell out of school, get the hell out of the area and get away … School was not something I enjoyed’.
Mick told the Commissioner, ‘In hindsight now, for a long time it was my way or the highway … I realise it was to the detriment of my family and other interpersonal relationships and a lot of anger that I harboured and rebelliousness in I guess … a minor way to maybe what a Hell’s Angel would rebel like … but you know, [I] just never really fit in’.
Alcohol and drugs have played a big part in Mick’s adult life, and he believes that his childhood trauma caused him to be hypervigilant about his own children. ‘I was hard as fuck on them … They never got to stay over with friends as I assumed always the parents would be a threat to them.’
Mick has been undergoing counselling through Living Well, a support service for men who have been sexually abused. ‘[I] carry a lot of guilt … for things that you didn’t even know, “Why did I do that … I didn’t do that. Why am I fucking guilty about everything”, you know.’
He finds telephone counselling easier because, ‘He can’t see me crying … Can’t see me blubbering … I can have a few beers and whatever and … try and get my head together a bit to sound sensible for a little while, while I’m talking to him’. Mick’s counsellor has been of enormous help, but he’s leaving soon and Mick will have to talk someone else.
‘The last couple of years [have] been a changing curve and everything else, but the one thing I’ve seen is the Royal Commission is an indication that people are believing that things happened now, whereas for 40 years, nothing happened … under the carpet and all the rest of it.’
Mick told the Commissioner, ‘I’m sick of talking about it. People are sick of hearing about it. You know, like, how long am I going to … This is 40-something years. When am I going to shut the fuck up and just get over it? And today’s the day. It’s gotta be … For me, the repaired state would be that I can say, “Okay, it happened, but it’s not ruling my life anymore”.’