Growing up in a ‘dysfunctional’ family in the 1960s, Mick always felt like an outcast.
‘I was always told I was mixed up at birth and I wasn’t part of the family, really.’
Eventually his mother decided to send him away, and while his siblings remained at home, 12-year-old Mick was sent to an institution run by the De La Salle Brothers. He arrived with no idea why he was there or how long he would have to stay. The abuse began almost immediately.
‘The shock was: the first week I was there I think I was bashed if not every day, every second day because I wouldn’t kneel down and give Brother Patrick a headjob. And the bashings were there for me to shut up and not talk to anyone about it. So he knew what he was doing. He just cornered me in my room and shut the door and, because I wouldn’t kneel down, bashings went on. He’d punch you in the stomach, in the guts, slap your ears. And that wasn’t just one or two slaps, it was five or ten minutes of it. That was the introduction.’
Brother Patrick’s ‘introduction’ turned out to be a pattern that continued over the next three years, not just with Mick but with other boys as well.
‘He was one who liked to go overboard when exercising his power. A lot. Consistently. At least three, four times a week we’d see it. And that’s not including the lads that were cornered in the cottages.’
Few of the boys dared to report the abuse.
‘I know during my time someone did try to speak out. Before two weeks were up he was in hospital. And that was just Brother Patrick letting us know what can happen, what does happen.’
Mick himself ended up in hospital after a particularly vicious beating. The staff asked him about the injuries but he kept his mouth shut. It was only when he left the home at age 15 that he decided to speak out. Mick made an agreement with three friends and they all went off to different police stations to report Brother Patrick’s behaviour.
Mick spoke to a detective and immediately, ‘Hit a brick wall. He basically said I was lying, “Don’t make a bloody scene. How dare you say anything against a man of God. How dare you say anything against the Brothers and Priests”. Had no consideration for the fact that what I was saying was true’.
Afterwards, Mick met up with the other three boys and discovered that they’d suffered the same treatment. He then tried to talk to his mother about it and got the same reaction. She told him, ‘Priests and Brothers don’t do that. They’re God’s people’.
From there Mick moved to Melbourne where he quickly ‘went to the wrong side of the street’. He started stealing and selling drugs and did a few short stints in jail. After a few years the war between rival criminal groups in Melbourne escalated, so Mick decided to get out.
‘People started dying and disappearing. It went silly, so I thought, nah, I’m out of here.’
He escaped to Queensland but the cycle continued and he soon fell in with the wrong crowd again. It was only years later when he went traveling that he was finally able to shake off his old life and start over. ‘I wiped me hands of it and got away.’
From then on, Mick managed to get a handle on his behaviour and stick to the right side of the law. Psychologically, however, he was struggling with the impact of the abuse every day.
‘I’m learning that all the time, what it’s done to me. I’m not normal inside, with me emotions. I hate people touching me, which is hard to get over and have a relationship. My thinking is not right. I look at a person and I’d much rather hurt ‘em than let ‘em hurt me. I think I should get in first. I know that’s not right, but it’s all that – all the programing that was put into me has to be undone.’
He was married briefly, ‘but that was no good. That was a big mistake. I didn’t have the tools to handle it or understand … I don’t feel closeness. I don’t. I’m sort of like a bit dead inside’.
Mick said he wants nothing to do with the Catholic Church and has no interest pursuing compensation. But he would like to see Brother Patrick charged and locked up. He told the Commissioner he doesn’t know where Brother Patrick is living and he doesn’t want to know.
‘Because I’ll go there and kill him. I don’t care if I go to jail for killing him, I will kill him if I find out where he is, okay. I’ll give him the bashing he deserves. I wouldn’t have any compunction doing that whatsoever.’