Newton was made a state ward as an infant and never knew his parents. He remembers having the best years of his life as a toddler in a Catholic children’s home, and the nuns taking very good care of him as he was growing up.
In the mid-1930s, when Newton was six, he was devastated to be moved to a different orphanage in Western Australia. He didn’t know anyone there and didn’t like sharing a dorm.
Newton and the other boys often went swimming at a local pool. He remembers always being accompanied by Brother Bolton, who was a tall and scary man.
‘He used to call us out of the water and get us to lay on our backs. The other half would lay on our stomachs … He’d go along, lift up the bathers. Then he’d make us turn around and he’d do the same thing again.’
After two years Newton was transferred to a Christian Brothers orphanage. The conditions there were dreadful, and he was woken up at 5.30am to do manual labour. He never received any education as the Brothers only taught the ones they believed were intelligent and didn’t include him.
Around the age of 10 Newton was caught stealing some extra lollies by Brother Xavier. He beaten until he wet and soiled himself, and was embarrassed because this punishment was doled out in front of everyone. ‘That night I was awake all night.’
On another occasion Newton was called to Xavier’s room. He was exhausted from the day’s work, so he didn’t question anything when Xavier asked him to sit on his lap. The priest then masturbated him.
Newtown didn’t know it was wrong and didn’t resist. ‘I was raised by the Christian Brothers, I accepted it as love.’
In the early 1940s Newton was moved to another boys’ home. Here he was again forced to do manual labour, including construction. He never did any school work at this home either.
Newton was completely illiterate when he left institutional care at 17. He was able to find work in a factory and liked teaching others how to operate the machinery.
When Newton was injured at work a colleague suggested he join the defence force, and he served for over two decades. He was able to enlist because they offered tuition, and it was here he finally learned to read and write.
Newton married and had children but the marriage broke down. He was upset that his wife was embarrassed by his lack of education, and since then has had one relationship. He has difficulty relating to others, especially women, and described himself as a loner.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that Newton met his mother. He discovered she had remarried and had further children. This was hard for him to accept and he often asked her why she didn’t collect him from the orphanages. She told him ‘You just didn’t do that at the time’.
Newton didn’t tell anyone about the abuse until he joined a class action recently. He received two small payments in compensation for his time in care. ‘Detention until the age of 17: it’s not a very nice way to do it but that’s what they did. It was too much, I thought it was shocking.’