Morris is angry. And he’s got a lot to be angry about.
At the age of three and a half he was sent to a children’s home in New South Wales run by the Anglican Church, and stayed there until he ran away when he was 16. The time he spent at the home from the late 1950s onwards was marked by constant physical and psychological abuse. He also suffered sexual abuse from the staff and, on one occasion, another child tried to rape him.
He told the Commissioner, ‘That’s all I’m prepared to say. There’s other things that went on I’m not saying to anybody. I never have, I never will’.
What he did want to talk about was how the Anglican Church treated its victims, and the behaviour of the Church since an early hearing at the Royal Commission.
Morris was part of a group claim against the Church in the late 2000s and received a modest compensation payout, of which more than half disappeared in legal fees.
At the Royal Commission hearing, witnesses described child sexual abuse, along with physical and emotional abuse by staff members at the Anglican-run home. Representatives from the Church told the Commission they would revisit payments made to victims and increase their compensation.
Morris told the Commissioner, ‘The church came to you and said, “We’re sorry, we’re going to do the right thing”. Turned out all it was a con. They conned you and they conned the public. It gave them the opportunity to pay out a couple of people to shut them up. The rest of us they told us to get stuffed’.
Morris said the increased compensation went to a few of the high-profile witnesses but he only received a further $3,000, due to the Church’s new rules that sexual abuse claims had to be provable.
‘The criteria for sexual abuse … what the Church is doing is saying only acts of penetration, that’s it, nothing else. And it’s got to be provable. Those things aren’t provable.’
He said it’s impossible to pick apart the physical, mental and sexual abuse, because the effects on him are the same either way. He has been diagnosed with PTSD, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and personality disorder. He has had multiple heart attacks and attempted suicide twice, and constantly struggles to control his anger.
‘I hate the sound of my voice … I can’t look in the mirror, I shave in the shower by feel. I hate having my photo taken, I hate being in groups of people … I avoid going anywhere if I can.’
He said the Church failed in its duty of care when he was a child, and has continued to fail. In the review of his compensation they approached him out of the blue, at a very bad time in his life when he was nursing his wife through a serious illness.
‘Ever since all this happened when I was a kid, I spent my life trying to improve myself, get over all the shit. And then this lot came in with all this garbage … I ended up having a mental breakdown.’
He said the Church accepted the terms of the Royal Commission because it allowed them to make far smaller payments than if they had to account for all the physical and emotional abuse too. ‘All they’re doing is cutting their costs. They don’t give a damn.’
He criticised the Royal Commission for failing to keep track of actions the Church promised to take and said the Church had used the public process as a way of saying they’ve dealt with everything and now they’re off the hook.
Morris said it was unacceptable for the Church to deal directly with victims as it gave them the opportunity to cause even further damage, as happened to him.
‘That’s why I’ve come to this Royal Commission. There are people who can’t say what went on because they’re either dead, they’re too terrified, or they’re drug addicts. I came out of that place I was a full-on druggo and alcoholic. All I wanted to do was write myself off non-stop, 24 hours a day. I’m not proud of it.’
Morris said it is only now, after nearly 60 years, that he is beginning to get a semblance of normality in his life.
‘They stole my childhood and they destroyed my future,’ he said.
But he is determined to fight back.
‘Those bastards aren’t going to get away with this.’