Neville was born in the UK, and immigrated to Australia with his family in the late 1950s. They settled in a small community a couple of hours drive from Melbourne, and Neville was sent to a Catholic school in a nearby town.
The nuns at this school used to beat Neville extensively and regularly with all manner of implements – feather dusters, wooden rulers, canes, leather straps – and ‘I had no idea really why I was being hit and so forth a lot of the time’.
A year or so after he arrived in Australia, Neville became an altar boy at the local Catholic church. He was eight years old when Father Wicks, the parish priest, began to physically and sexually abuse him in the vestry after Mass.
Although there were two other boys serving the altar as well, they always seemed to leave earlier than Neville, so he would end up alone with Wicks.
‘He was a hitter and a puncher, and would also grab my ears and rub my ears, and pull my head down to his crutch area ... He wouldn’t take his clothes off or anything. He would just punch, and drag my head down to his crutch.’
Neither of Neville’s parents went to Mass, and so did not have any idea of what was going on while he was at the church. It never occurred to him to tell them about it, or what the nuns did to him at school.
At some point a parishioner saw Neville emerge from the vestry crying, after having been abused by Wicks. He asked what was wrong, and Neville disclosed the physical abuse to him. The man then spoke to the priest about this matter.
For a while after this the abuse was not as bad, but it eventually escalated again. It did not end until Neville started high school, and stopped attending Mass.
Neville didn’t think much about any impacts the abuse may have had on him for a long time. ‘I never thought it did affect me at all ... It was only that some time ago I suffered depression and anxiety.’
He began accessing therapy through a mental health support organisation. ‘It really only came up, through dealings with them, of just how much I think resentment and anger and all sorts of things are still in there ...
‘It’s so long ago now. But it was the anger of that which just kept coming up. And I was told basically to confront these fears and these causes of anxiety, and so forth. And it was only … through a lot of self-analysis and going through a path, that a lot of this came out and manifested itself in just incredible anger, that I just wanted people to know of what it was like.’
Neville hasn’t gone back to the church or school to tell them what happened to him while in their care, but found it ‘quite cathartic’ to share his story with the Commissioner. He knows that Wicks is most likely deceased by now, and all of the nuns would be too. ‘Nothing ever came of it. It’s as though they haven’t suffered for it.’