Mitch’s parents were high-functioning alcoholics and he told the Commissioner that his mother had ‘pretty appalling parenting skills’.
When he was three years old Mitch had a bad accident, resulting in severe physical and internal injuries, but his parents refused to take him for medical treatment. A couple of years later he suffered another serious accident playing sport at boarding school. These childhood injuries have led to serious ongoing physical problems as an adult.
Eventually, after his first accident, Mitch went to the hospital to have his bowel and bladder problems investigated. While he was there, he recalled that a member of staff touched him inappropriately around his anal area.
After his parents divorced in the early 1970s, Mitch was sent to a Jesuit boarding school in Western Australia, because of his mother’s increasingly severe mental health issues.
‘The [school] was just a blur, a maelstrom of insanity … violence was just horrific … it was pretty much Lord of the Flies … The whole place was just a violent nightmare from start to finish. Educationally, it was just a complete waste of time, really. The staff were so appallingly trained.’
Mitch had friends in state schools and other private schools, ‘and that place was just an island of insanity … It was really unbelievably barbaric. I mean, to be a teacher there, the prerequisite was a psychotic hatred of children.’ Mitch’s best friend told him that the year after Mitch left he said to his father, ‘Get me the fuck out of here. They’re trying to kill me’.
There was an old Irish priest at the school who was in charge of the dormitory at night. This priest made his way down the dormitory, sexually abusing the boys.
‘I knew what was going on … and you’d just think, “Oh, Christ”, but it took a long time because he’d take some children away. Some children he by-passed … It took, I don’t know, a week, 10 days for him to get to me, and it was just … genital groping basically, and as I’ve said to quite a few people, I just went into my head, you know, divorced myself from the body.’
Mitch didn’t report the abuse to the headmaster because, ‘he was an absolute psychopath … He was capricious’. A few years ago, when Mitch saw a program on television about the Jesuits, he phoned the producer. When he mentioned the headmaster’s name, she commented that the man was ‘the biggest block to justice of any abused child, and we’re still fighting him’.
After Mitch’s grandmother died his mother took him to New South Wales, where he spent three years as a weekly boarder at a school run by the Christian Brothers.
One day, Mitch had an ear infection and he was lying down. One of the Brothers came in and lay down next to him. ‘I felt his erection against me. He started to fondle me, reached towards my genitals, and that’s when I just whacked him … with the words, “I’ve got a fucking ear infection”. I was pretty pissed off.’
The Brother got up quite quickly, ‘Jumped up, smashed me in the chest, knocked me flying … I was pretty angry and I thought, “Right, I am seriously going to mess this guy up” … I turned, and he was already walking out … with half an erection’.
There was one other incident of sexual abuse that Mitch recalled, and this was by other students. ‘One big … guy, just sat on my back while another guy shoved a broomstick up my backside … Then they just got off me and said, “Fuck off”.’
When Mitch reported the incidents of sexual abuse to the police in the mid-2000s, the response he received was ‘appalling’. Similarly appalling was the response when he approached an official from the Catholic Church. ‘The last thing he said to me was, “Why don’t you just get on with your filthy little life”.’
Mitch then phoned the office of a higher Church official. This official phoned back ‘with a very disingenuous apology’. Mitch wasn’t surprised with the response, because of the abuse he experienced at both his Catholic schools from a very young age.
When Mitch was told about the Church’s Towards Healing process, he didn’t bother with it. ‘I heard from several people [that it was] as bad as the abuse. And I knew what it would be like. It would be victimisation … After that, I just didn’t do anything.’
Mitch came to the Royal Commission because, ‘I just thought the story had to be told. When Julia called the Commission, I thought, “About frigging time”, because it’s a Royal Commission. It’s an acknowledgement. It’s got powers … I just thought, [the Jesuit headmaster], this guy has just destroyed hundreds of lives, if not directly as a paedophile, then certainly in defence of them’.