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Monty Paul's story

Monty is pretty sure that his father had a ‘mental problem’. After failing in business, his father barely made a living off the land in regional New South Wales. He was also violent to his family. ‘We really struggled’, Monty said.

In the 1950s, Monty attended a Catholic primary school. Because he ‘had the highest absentee of any kid at school’ he had ‘to sit sideways to the class at a piano’. Monty said that normally that seat ‘was kept for kids who misbehaved, but here am I sitting at that, the poorest kid, the only kid that went to school never had shoes, never had enough food, someone had to send up to convent to eat’.

‘I never had any books, so it’d be sitting at that … piano - the few times I did turn up - with nothing, just bored. So I therefore went most of the time, excused myself like you would, and sat underneath the school and waited till the kids come out and they would give us sandwiches.’

One of the nuns at the school – a nun who would often ‘lash the kids’ – started to single Monty out for unusual punishment. ‘I was the only one that I know who she did it to’, Monty said.

Before Monty continued, he said ‘I want it on record that every other nun I went to school with was the loving, caring, and the most beautiful people, except this one nun, fifth class nun, which is now the source of my complaint’. Monty didn’t want to name this nun ‘because I could get the wrong one, and some of them were loving’.

At school, Monty ‘never misbehaved’. He ‘wasn’t game to’. Nevertheless, this nun called Monty out from under the building, and took him and four other boys to the church vestry. Monty said that ‘they had a stool, like a wooden stool, and I was told to lay on it, and the other four boys held it. The first two times she gave the cane to the backside and it didn’t affect me’. Afterwards, the nun sent Monty back under the building, and the other boys back to class.

During a third incident in the vestry, Monty said, the nun ‘upgraded it where I had to strip with me pants off, naked’. As the boys held him down, ‘she really used the cane, and of course I’m screaming’, Monty recalled. ‘I was only a skinny kid and I couldn’t resist it.’

‘What made the third time the worst was that I was bleeding on the backside.’ When his mother showed his father the blood on his school pants, they assumed he had ‘misbehaved’ or done ‘something wrong’. His father bashed him.

‘There was nothing but bashing and violence.’

The fourth time the nun came to get Monty, he said ‘I haven’t done anything wrong’ and refused to go with her. However, the nun said ‘I’m not going to give the cane anymore’. She was true to her word.

The nun then took Monty into the church and shut the big wooden doors. ‘She gets me to strip naked and climb up on the altar. The only time she touched me was to help me get up on the altar, naked … And then she told me to sit on a thing on top of the altar … I was cold. She’s mumbling something, but all I can ever remember her saying “the Virgin Mary something”, that I was evil.’

Afterwards, the nun told him to stay in the church ‘and go around the Stations of the Cross’.

Monty never talked about these incidents. ‘I never brought it up in my life.’ However, after he’d recently asked a community worker to type out his story, Monty was visited by a man who bashed the table with fists and questioned why Monty was bringing up the past. This was ‘very upsetting’ for Monty who was quick to say that the local priests at the time ‘had every opportunity to interfere with us and they never did … This is just a one-off nun’.

Monty left school illiterate. This is ‘one thing that has affected me to this very day, every day of my life … I still suffer from the lack of an education ‘cause I’m paying the price all time’.

He also left school an atheist. ‘I was age of 10 or 11 and I declared there was no God … It taught me not to believe in God. I just saw the violence, ‘cause I have known nothing but violence. My whole life was bashings and that.’

When the Royal Commission started making the news, Monty thought ‘well, I better grow some balls and get out and tell my story’. He did so primarily to stand against the corporal punishment, and to make one definitive recommendation.

‘No bashing kids’, he said. ‘I’m dead against corporal punishment. Absolutely. I just don’t believe you need to bash kids.’

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