‘I recall saying over the following days to the other kids, “Watch out for him, he sneaks about the huts at night and he’s a poofter”. I would not have known the word paedophile at the time.’
Expressing his emotions wasn’t something Noah was used to doing as a child. His father was emotionally absent and his mother was often busy. Noah spent most of his afternoons with youth groups and various sporting clubs while his parents were working, or at their own group events. He also attended many camps, run by different organisations, on weekends.
In the mid-1970s when he was 12, Noah had finished school for the year and was enrolled to attend a camp in regional New South Wales. The camp was run by the Department of Sport and Recreation and Noah had attended several other camps run by the department before. He was particularly excited for this camp, because some of his friends were going.
Noah shared a cabin with several other children, including his friends. They all had sheets and pyjamas but not Noah. He had a sleeping bag and slept in his shorts. He was a real camper, he told the Commissioner. On one of the nights at camp it was too hot so Noah lay on top of his sleeping bag in his shorts.
Later that night, Noah was woken by a male staff member holding his penis. He didn’t like the feeling so he yelled at the worker to get out of the cabin, which the worker did. Noah went out of his way to avoid the worker after the abuse because he felt uncomfortable in his presence. He also told the other kids to stay away from the worker by telling them that the man was gay.
Noah returned home from camp and didn’t mention the abuse to anyone. He’d learnt from a young age not to discuss his problems. Noah was also worried that his parents would be ashamed of him. After that, Noah didn’t attend any more camps and dropped out of most of his other school groups.
Throughout his teenage years and into his early adulthood, Noah was extremely uncomfortable around gay people. He reacted in an angry way whenever he received attention from gay men. Noah turned to alcohol and marijuana and used them heavily every day for several years to diffuse his anger.
‘It was the 1970s and I was at the beach smoking [marijuana] like there was no tomorrow.’
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Noah disclosed the abuse to his parents. He felt that he couldn’t go on much longer without telling them what happened on the camp. Noah was hurt that his father didn’t want to discuss it. He was also disappointed with his mother’s lack of empathy about the disclosure. Noah believes they were embarrassed when he told them.
‘I never discussed this as a child with [my parents] and even as an adult, Dad, of course, was very different about it. I may as well not have said anything and he would’ve probably preferred it had I not said anything.’
By staying silent as a child, Noah felt that he may have had a part in contributing to other children being abused by the camp worker. He hoped that coming forward and sharing his story would help others to share theirs. Noah would like to see better protection of children in the future.
‘I have offered this story as another piece in a puzzle which may tie with others, and so feel then I may have helped.’