Monty had only just moved into the Aboriginal children’s home when he was first sexually abused by Mr Rogers. It was the early 1960s, and Monty was around seven years old. He’d been placed in the home after his father, who was violent, left his mum. Even though she worked and tried to support Monty and his siblings, they were forcibly removed and taken into care.
Rogers and his wife were houseparents at the Protestant-run home in the Northern Territory. At night he would come into the dormitory where Monty slept, and place his penis into Monty’s hand. He would force Monty to kiss and lick his penis, and tried to put it in Monty’s mouth too. The abuse continued on an almost nightly basis for the next three or four years. After each instance, Monty ‘would cry myself to sleep wanting my mum’. Monty became aware that he was not the only one being sexually abused by Rogers.
‘At first I thought what Mr Rogers was doing to me was normal as he was doing it to other children at the home as well. As I got older I felt bitter towards him, as I started to realise that what he was doing was wrong ... the other children would talk to me about being sexually abused by Mr Rogers, and crying about it.’ Rogers would threaten Monty not to tell anybody about the abuse, saying it was their secret.
When Monty was 11 he decided ‘I’m going to do something about it ... This is for all of us, it’s got to stop’. He and another boy abused by Roger disclosed their experiences to the son of the home’s superintendent, as they were too scared to tell the superintendent directly. At first he did not believe them, but Monty was insistent and demanded that something had to be done. Finally, the matter was reported to the superintendent.
A policeman came to interview Monty about the abuse, accompanied by a woman Monty thinks was a welfare officer. The matter went to court, and Monty had to attend the proceedings. He was not offered any counselling or other support during this process, and Rogers was in his sight during the trial. ‘It was a big thing, but knowing that I’d put him there was a good thing, because I’d had enough.’
Monty thinks that Rogers was convicted, but does not know what sentence he received. Back in the home, the children were told that Rogers had gone to Tasmania with his wife, as a way of explaining their sudden disappearance. Even though Rogers had been found guilty, Monty was punished by ‘everybody’ for reporting the abuse. ‘I thought, well damn it. If this is what it costs, it’s a small price to pay.’
As well as the sexual abuse, Monty was frequently subjected to harsh corporal punishment. If he did anything wrong, he would receive a belting. The superintendent caned him so hard on a couple of occasions that he was unable to sit down. If he wet the bed, the staff would rub his nose in the sodden sheets. He was also made to do hard physical labour before and after school each day, scrubbing floors and polishing windows.
When Monty left the home he went to live with his sister and her husband in Darwin. Although he did well at school, he left when his brother-in-law offered him a well-paying job. In his early adulthood he experienced a lot of traumatic life events, including his mother dying in his arms and the accidental death of his wife.
The sexual abuse was always on Monty’s mind, but he would just ‘black it out’ in order to get on with his life. Even so, he attempted suicide a number of times, and developed a severe problem with alcohol as a result of the abuse (and subsequent traumas). Coming close to drinking himself to death, he managed to reduce his alcohol consumption after his doctor warned him he only had three months to live.
The embarrassment Monty feels about being sexually assaulted as a child has made it hard for him to make friends with women, and he has trouble trusting males. Growing up in the home ‘I feel like I have been institutionalised, and have difficulty fitting in with normal people’. Despite his troubles, ‘I’ve always had this inner feeling that nothing’s going to beat me. And it hasn’t so far. [But] almost’.
He later married again, and had a couple of children. Speaking about his experiences has helped him with his healing. ‘I have carried the burden of my child sexual assaults for a long time, and it feels good that I am able to talk about it now.’
Monty has joined a class action against the home with others who lived there. He shared his story with the Commission not just for himself, but for those who did not have a chance to tell theirs. He knows that many kids abused at the home later suicided, often blaming themselves for the abuse, and were denied any justice. ‘I thought, something’s got to be done about this. These poor people have gone to their graves thinking they did wrong. And they didn’t.’