Morrie was born in England in the late 1930s to a poor single mother. He spent his early years in orphanages in England. When he was eight or nine, he was ‘chosen’ to be sent to Australia as a child migrant, on the promise of sunshine, plenty of fruit, and a better life.
The Christian Brothers home he ended up at in Western Australia did not live up to expectations.
‘We were stripped of our British clothes, put into a pair of khaki shorts and shirt and that was the uniform for six and half years. Slave labour, cruelty, sadistic people. It were terrible what we went through. Flogged every day with a thick heavy strap. Especially if you wet the bed …
‘[We were] very poorly fed. We lived on rabbits and scraps. I just can’t understand that because we had a farm there, we had everything, but a lot of the food that we produced was given to Sherman’s cronies. Brother Sherman, he ran it. He was a tyrant, a bully.’
Morrie became an altar boy for one of the priests, Father Bennett. When Morrie was about 13, Father Bennett asked Morrie to come up to his room.
‘He sat me on his knee, fondling my legs, put his cheek to mine, I thought he was going to kiss me … I wasn’t aware of what he was doing, I thought he was being friendly. Fortunately for me we were interrupted. I was pushed off his knee onto the floor all of a sudden because a boy ran up the steps and turned around and saw me on the floor. Had he not have come up, Bennett would have gone a lot further. I didn’t know what he was doing until I read it later that he was charged. He was a known paedophile.’
After that incident Morrie never went to Bennett’s room again.
Morrie’s wife, who supported him in his private session, talked about the abuse of trust from Bennett. ‘Morrie had never known a mother, he’d never been hugged. He’d never had any comforting arms around him and this man was doing this for his own evil intent. That to me is worse than anything else.’
Morrie managed to fight off other incidents of abuse while he was in the home, including from an older boy, and another Brother, who he avoided by hiding up a tree.
‘One of the other Brothers, I thought he was going to give me a good hiding but what he wanted me to do was go to his room. Brother Wilson, he was a known paedophile too, he said he’d get me in the morning. Sure enough he got me in the morning and beat the shit out of me.’
Morrie said there was nobody to report such things to. Not only were they geographically isolated at the home, if they had told one of the Brothers they would have got a flogging.
At 17, Morrie left the home and went to work on a farm, where he grew six inches in his first year. He enjoyed the work and buried himself in it.
He shut off his past at the home and didn’t talk to anybody about it for years. He told his first wife about his experiences, and then his second wife. They both continue to be a great emotional support for him.
In the 2000s, he went through Redress WA and the police department called him to talk about a possible investigation, but nothing ever came of it. He received the maximum payment of $45,000 through the scheme, ‘but it was an insult. It could have been $5 billion, it wouldn’t compensate’.
Morrie is distressed that, despite many years of searching, he has not yet managed to find his biological parents. He is also resentful of the almost total lack of education he received at the home.
During the Redress WA process, he saw a psychologist, who wrote a cursory report, but he has not seen any other counsellors over the years and he is in no rush to do so.
‘It still gets me worked up. If I leave it alone I’m okay, so it might be better that way …
‘I’ve been fortunate enough to push it aside yet when they talk about it [on TV] I do get emotionally upset because for the education I’ve had, or not had, I’ve made something of myself. And had I have been educated, how much further would I have got?
‘We were told we’d get nowhere, we’re going to rot in hell, you’re the sons of whores and sluts and little black shits. Terrible. If they keep saying that, some of [the boys] believed in that and that’s what happened to them, whereas I managed to turn the other way.’
He didn’t pursue any legal action against the home in the past, partly because he didn’t know how to. However he is interested in looking into that now. In the meantime, Morrie has written about what happened to him, and he found that process extremely helpful.
‘To me, it’s for the story to get out – what happened. It’s not about money to me.’