‘This is a hugely important day for me. I don’t hide that fact because … I’ve been in the situation for so many years, where no-one’s actually believed my story, including my own family.’
Oliver did not have a good relationship with his parents. He told the Commissioner that he ‘disowned my father and I took my stepfather’s surname’, and often during school holidays he stayed at school, because ‘I didn’t know where my parents were, or if they were available, they didn’t want me’.
Oliver attended a Marist Brothers boarding school in regional South Australia. There were over 100 students enrolled at the school, but Oliver was only one of a small number of Protestant students who, ‘from day one … were victimised’.
Oliver did well in primary school and came near the top of the class, but during his second year of high school in the mid-1950s, he encountered Brother Pauling, ‘and that’s when things really started to go bad’.
Oliver told the Commissioner, ‘Pauling … was very much a disciplinarian … [One] day … I was sitting somewhere towards the back of the class and he said, “Oliver … you’re going to go to hell. Your parents are going to go to hell” and he didn’t just say it once. He said it several times, and that was synonymous of his behaviour …
‘I was not a sportsperson … I was overweight and I was lousy at it, and this guy used to torment me at that level as well.’
Even though he wasn’t a Catholic, Oliver ‘took religion very seriously. I was probably the best Catholic in the school, because it was a way out for me … I don’t think I ever did anything which was serious in terms of offences, and I tried to be the perfect kid because I just didn’t want to get into trouble. But that didn’t stop me from getting thrashed … particularly by this Brother’.
When he was in Brother Pauling’s dormitory, Oliver tried to sneak to the toilet in the middle of the night, but Brother Pauling would follow him in and ‘he had a … cane. He’d pull out the cane, “Come on Oliver, piss. Piss” and of course I couldn’t because I was so nervous … [and then] he was putting the cane into my anus and shoving it like that’.
The sexual abuse occurred on a number of occasions. ‘It was a regular scenario, until it got to the point where I ran away … I remember one night I went and hid in a cave.’ On another occasion, the school matron admitted Oliver to the infirmary so he didn’t have to attend a sports day, where she knew he would be humiliated, ‘because I couldn’t jump hurdles’.
Because he could not cope with the physical, psychological and sexual abuse anymore, Oliver left school at 16. He found a job, rented a house, and became responsible for caring for his younger siblings.
He has experienced severe mental health issues and has been seeing a psychiatrist for many years. It was his psychiatrist who recommended that Oliver approach the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process, in the early 2000s. He was very disappointed with the progress being made, and the small amount being offered as compensation. He consulted a lawyer and received a slightly higher payment.
‘I always knew [that the amount I received] was grossly unfair, because of the huge hurt and the degree of dysfunctionalism which showed up in many ways in my life.’
Oliver also reported the sexual abuse to the police in the mid-2000s. They believed him, but because the sexual abuse occurred so long ago, they were unable to proceed with a case against Brother Pauling.
Oliver came to the Royal Commission because ‘I want to get my story out … and I want all the stuff to be there in the public record because of the fact that no one’s believed me and because of the fact that psychologically it will help me to cope, knowing that my story will not be totally lost’.