Morry was born in the late 1940s, into a large family who lived in regional New South Wales. Morry’s dad was an alcoholic. At the end of a night’s drinking he’d swim up the river to home.
When Morry’s father died, his mother was left on her own with the children and just the little money she earned doing odd jobs in the area. She couldn’t manage. A charity group helped relocate the family to a nearby town.
Morry couldn’t settle in his new home. He pined for his father and would skip school to go to the cemetery. A local doctor advised that he should be sent away to a Salvation Army home for boys in another regional town. Morry arrived there when he was seven and left when he was 16.
‘My first impression of [the home] was when I was taken up there with my mother. Here’s this great big building, with a tower on it. I’d never seen anything like this before. Where I come from there was no buildings like that’, he recalled.
To distract Morry while his mother left, he was sent outside with another older boy. Sensing something wrong he raced round to the front of the building but was too late.
‘The sight has never left me yet … the train pulling out of the station and going, and that is still with me today. I can just about draw you a picture of that. And my mother was on that train. And that was it.’
When Morry was 11, he was touched inappropriately one night by an officer supervising the boys’ bedtime. Later that night the officer, Harold Abercrombie, woke Morry up. ‘He said “Would you like to come with me? I got some sweets, I got some cake”.’
The visits to Abercrombie’s room became regular events, three or four times a week, for the next two years. ‘It was him doing things to me and me doing things to him …
‘In that situation, as far as I was concerned, even though I sold me soul to the devil I was surviving because I was getting goodies, even though I had to do favours to get them’, Morry explained. And Abercrombie was very affectionate to him. ‘That’s what sort of kept me in.’
It wasn’t till he went home for a visit and told his friends about Abercrombie that Morry understood that he was being abused. ‘They said “You shouldn’t be doin’ that” … I said “But I get taken care of”. They said, “It doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t be doin’ it”.’
Back at the home, Morry told the manager, Major Farrell about the abuse. ‘He acted straight away’, and Abercrombie was removed from the school that same day.
Sometime later, Major Farrell took Morry to the police station to make a statement about Abercrombie. He was interviewed by a police officer who pressed him to give exact details about what had happened between him and Abercrombie.
’When we finished, if there’d been a drainpipe big enough I would have crawled in it real quick. Because I thought, “What have I done? What have I committed? I’m a rat”. I think that got me more so than anything else. How filthy I’d been.
‘And over all the years, that dogged me. “Why didn’t I do something about this? Why did I let it happen?” But survival and affection - and love, I guess you’d call it – because there was none of that, when it come your way, you lapped it up.’
After Morry left the home he moved to another regional town. He married at 21 and had a child soon after. With a wife and a child of his own, he was over the moon, ‘but in the back of my mind was all this that had happened to me’.
Eventually, Morry started drinking. It seemed to help.
‘But then, in me late 40s, I hit the wall. … I was just sitting in the bath, and I said to my wife, I said “I need help”. If she could have told you her story of what I was like – I was a wife beater. I’m not happy to say it. In my drunken state I used to come home [and] she copped it.’
Morry sought counselling from the Salvation Army. The first person he saw told him to ‘get over it’. At his second interview, with different officers, the first question asked was ‘What do you want?’
‘And I said “I want help. That’s why I’m here”.’
Morry received two years of counselling through the Salvation Army. As part of that process he had to speak openly with his wife and children. ‘I had to apologise to them, which was hard. I said “That’s what I was, but I am that no more. And it will never ever happen again”. And it didn’t.’ In 2008 he found God. ‘The greatest day of my life.’
When Morry first asked the Salvation Army about compensation he was told he wouldn’t get any and that no one else had either. He later found this to be untrue and approached the organisation again. Eventually he received a payment of $100,000.
Morry’s concern now is how to help others like him heal. ‘The way they’re hurt – how do we help them get over it … I’ve actually had phone contact with a few of the boys, just to see how they’re going. Some are managing and others are just not coping with it. And I say to ’em, “If you don’t cope, then it’s going to wear off on your loved ones”, which mine did. Where I thought I was coping, it was like a cancer eating me away.’
Morry told the Commissioner that he felt he was at the end of his healing journey. ‘Today when I walk out this door, it’s the finish. To me, this is the end.’