‘I’ve decided to take action against the perpetrator. I suppose you really want to know why I’m doing this. More than anything I think it’s great that you’ve set up the Commission to investigate it.
‘The reason I never came forward to start with was, you don’t believe anyone would believe you. Being [over 50] years of age … if I’d gone home in the early ‘70s and told my parents that I’d been sexually assaulted, my parents would have probably – I was adopted as a child and I have a loving relationship with my parents – but I don’t believe they would’ve believed me. And so you kept it to yourself. And it was the tough boy syndrome I suppose of not saying anything.’
In the early 2010s, a man rang Noah asking if he would do some work on his mother’s home. Noah recognised the name and voice as the man who’d sexually abused him when was part of a scout troop in the early 1970s. ‘He didn’t know me from a bar of soap’, Noah told the Commissioner. ‘I knew him.’
He rejected the job but the call set in motion a series of events that led to Noah going to New South Wales Police and reporting the man, Phillip Bright, for sexual assault. Over 12 months and with the help of a detective, Noah went over facts and details about the abuse and made a formal statement about the three occasions Bright sexually assaulted him.
Bright was a St John Ambulance worker who’d been training scouts in first aid. Noah was one of several boys that Bright, then aged in his early twenties, singled out for special attention. He worked with them over a period of months to help them gain their certificates.
Noah was sure others within the scouting movement had knowledge of Bright’s activities, but when he contacted them in 2014, they refused to confirm that Bright had worked with the troop. Records from that time couldn’t be found.
Noah told the Commissioner that he’d suffered ‘with some form of depression’ all his life. At school he’d been a successful athlete and sports’ captain but everything changed after the abuse.
‘After all this happened my life went downhill. From the about age of 19 onwards it was never the same. Something in there happened and I went off the rails and I don’t know why … I’ve had a couple of relationships. I’ve been married twice. But nothing’s ever been stable in my life.’ His current relationship is the most stable one he’s ever had.
Noah described struggling with the feeling that he should have done something to prevent the abuse.
‘You feel as if you are a willing participant in the event and you’re not … I think the most difficult thing is to walk away. How do you escape from the situation … You feel like, “Why didn’t I just get up and walk away?” But it happened so quickly … you just feel, you feel bad. You feel ashamed, trapped. You may have just felt “This is what really happens”. It’s like feeling embarrassed and ashamed and I was under his control.’
At the same time as speaking to police and trying to find out information about Bright from the Scouts, Noah rang the offices of St John Ambulance seeking details of dates and times Bright had worked for them. When he explained why he wanted it, the woman on the phone told him they’d ‘never had anyone commit any crimes’.
Noah told the Commissioner, ‘If you knew me well, that’s just waving a red flag to me, because I probably won’t let go now. I didn’t want them to admit responsibility or anything. I just wanted to talk to someone about it’.
When police interviewed Bright he admitted sexually abusing Noah, and told them it ‘was a one-off occasion’, something Noah thought was ‘garbage’.
Noah was surprised that he was the first to make an allegation but when police looked at their records, they found that a series of general complaints had been made about Bright in previous decades, but no one had ever made a formal statement.
‘I know that there were other victims’, Noah told the Commissioner. ‘I want the bastard. They’re not going to jail him. They’ve told me he’ll get sentenced to whatever the standards were in [the early 1970s], and that’s fine.
‘But at the end of the day, if you can make a claim under victims of crime and get $10,000, it’s not going to make a lot of difference. Money isn’t going to make a lot of difference to my life. But if I got paid x number of dollars and he had to pay it back that would make me happy. I’ll donate that money to charity …
‘If he got put on the sex register and his neighbours knew he’s living next to their grandkids that are visiting – next door to a registered sex offender – I’ll be happy. If it makes him have to get up and move house, I’ll be happy. That’s what I want. I want his life to be absolute shit.’
Noah said he hoped his case would allow others who’d been abused by Bright to come forward to police. He knew how difficult it was to do, but was glad he’d done it.
‘You made me feel a lot better. I was always concerned that I’d die and no one would ever know that it happened. I just hope out of doing this that it brings some good, not only for myself but for the broader community.’