Nigel John's story

There was no Beyond Blue or Lifeline back in the 1940s and 1950s when Nigel was growing up in South Australia. So to blow the whistle on a local community hero, who happened to be sexually abusing a group of kids, was impossible.

Nigel practically lived at the beach when he was a child. So when his brother joined the swimming club Nigel was happy to follow suit. Alan Brody, who was a bit younger than Nigel’s dad, was the club coach. Everyone in town knew him and liked him. ‘Mr Shining Armour’, Nigel said bitterly.

When Nigel was about eight, Brody turned up at his house and asked his mother if he could take him down to the club house because he needed help with chores. Nigel’s mother agreed as long as Brody brought him back. It was the same time that his mother’s problems with alcohol were starting, Nigel remembered.

The chore was cleaning louvres. Because there was no ladder, Nigel found himself up on Alan Brody’s shoulders. Brody put his hand up into Nigel’s shorts and fondled him. Nigel told him to stop. ‘He said “No you’ll be right, just move along.” Then he’d do it again.’

Afterwards Brody gave him hush money. ‘Don’t tell anybody, here’s two shillings.’

This set up a regular pattern of abuse. His mother always gave permission for Brody to take Nigel. ‘She’d be half drunk so she wouldn’t really care. And then it would happen again.’ Brody started taking him into a little alcove in the club house and the abuse escalated to mutual masturbation.

Nigel started telling his mother ‘I don’t want to go’. She told him he had to. ‘She’d get stuck into me. So off I’d go and the same thing would happen. And that went on for quite some years.’

Nigel remembers Brody reassuring him that they were only doing what other boys do. ‘And I thought, oh well.’

Brody was abusing other boys as well. But Nigel didn’t know that. Nor was there any talk among kids about what Brody did. ‘He was God. He was the big hero.’ Besides, he was married with children.

Nigel was raped several times by Brody in the club. This time the hush money was five shillings. When Nigel was 12, he’d had enough. He told Brody that he was an ‘arsehole’ and that he wasn’t coming any more. ‘I basically screamed at him “Don’t touch me. You’re a bastard.”’

And that was the end of the abuse.

Nigel led a ‘basically normal life’ when he left school at 14. He was happy to go. He wanted to leave, to get away. He worked hard and got married young. He’d had a bit of sexual confusion but that resolved in his late teens.

He locked away the memory of the sexual abuse. Then, in his 60s, Nigel started thinking about it again. There was a lot of media publicity about the Catholics and about the boys’ homes and the abuse that went on there. He thought ‘Yeah you bastard, that’s what you bloody did to me’. He thought about the people who told their story. He thought, ‘Maybe I should have told mine, and this wouldn’t have happened’.

Nigel had an emotional breakdown. He went into hospital and was diagnosed with major depression. ‘It was the worst time of my life.’ He told the psychiatrists what had happened. And he finally disclosed to his wife. Since then he’s been receiving regular electroconvulsive therapy, which has been helpful.

Nigel went to the police with his story and found out that Brody had already been charged with molesting a group of other boys. It brought things to a head for him. ‘You bastard’, he thought. ‘You’re going to get your just desserts.’

The police took Nigel’s statement but didn’t ask if he wanted to press charges as well.

Alan Brody pleaded not guilty to the charges and committed suicide just before his trial.

Nigel hasn’t applied for any compensation. He thought no one would believe him because Brody was dead and didn’t even get put away. He just thought, ‘Forget about it’.

He did ring the swimming club to tell them he was going to the Commission. ‘You may be hearing something about it,’ he said.

And now? ‘I just wanted to tell my story.’

All the emotional support has been good since his breakdown, Nigel said, but sexual intimacy has been a challenge.

He recommended that anyone who worked with kids should be screened by police. He himself drums vigilance into his grandkids and he’s sure that they, and most kids these days, would disclose sexual abuse.

If Nigel had been able to report this ‘God’ anonymously when he was a kid, he would have done it. He does feel better for reporting Brody to the Commission.

‘The only thing I want to do now is go and piss on that bastard. And I can’t find his grave.’

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