Paddy's story

When Paddy was five years old he woke one morning to find he and his siblings had been abandoned by his mother and the other adults they’d been living with in the house. His sister, Leonie, who was seven, told Paddy, ‘everyone has gone away’ and that she ‘was going to be Mum from now on’. Each day she went out to the shops and stole food to feed them.

Within a short time the children were taken into care by local nuns, who at first locked them in a shed, ‘because we stank apparently’, and then shaved and applied kerosene-soaked bandages to their heads. The siblings were then separated, with Leonie and Paddy sent to a government-run residential home.

‘One of the things about that home was once a month or so, I don’t know how many times it happened to me, but we were allowed to be taken out by one of the good Fathers or one of the good citizens … and we’d usually be sodomised. And the memory I have of little boys crying on a Sunday night in our dorm is memory lasting.’

Paddy and his sister stayed for nearly a year in the home until one day they were told they were going to live with a man, Terry Shannon, and his mother. For five years until Paddy turned 10 in the mid-1940s, he and Leonie were repeatedly sexually abused, separately and together, by Shannon. ‘He was a maniac’, Paddy said.

Shannon had a significant criminal history and Paddy didn’t know how he’d been given custody of two children he didn’t know who were wards of the state. On long train trips, Shannon would sit Paddy on his knee, put a blanket over him, then anally rape him. ‘I wanted to throw off the blanket and yell, “Hey, look everyone. Look at my new father fucking me”. And I didn’t of course.’

Paddy made several attempts to run away but was beaten severely each time he was found and returned. The abuse stopped when Leonie disclosed it to a school friend who told her father and it was reported to police.

When police arrived at the house, they found Shannon sexually assaulting Leonie. In the court case that followed, Leonie had make-up put on her and was dressed to give the appearance that she was older than her age of 12. The judge sentenced Shannon to two years on a prison farm when the customary sentence at that time, Paddy said, was 10 years in jail.

The children returned to live with their mother and at school Paddy was subjected to racist taunts as well as sexual and physical abuse by other students. At 12, he began living on the streets. ‘I was a street kid and a hustler and a rent boy and a petty criminal.’

Over the next few years, Paddy had frequent encounters with the police and was given warnings that he was on a path to jail. For a brief time he had a job in a shop but it didn’t work out. ‘I grew up in those early years like a revolver with a faulty firing pin. Instead of harming other people I’d cut myself. I went through a lot of that. I thought the only place where I was accepted as an equal was on the streets, so back to the streets I drifted.’

In his mid-teens, Paddy connected with a community of like-minded people. When police raided a party he’d gone to, everyone fled except him. He was 16 but told arresting police he was 18 because he didn’t want to go to juvenile court. In jail, Paddy said, he was ‘open game’, and he was raped on multiple occasions by prison warders and other inmates.

Paddy told the Commissioner that at the age of four he’d been raped repeatedly by a man living next door and as a consequence had learned to dissociate.

‘I could literally step outside myself and observe what was happening to me, and that saved me’, he said. At the same time he developed an alternative persona, a boy with matinee-idol looks who could handle anything. ‘That was very positive, because nothing happened to me, everything happened to him.’

On his release from jail, Paddy left the people he knew and the area in which he’d been living and began forming a new life. He subsequently built a successful career and went on to mentor others in business and creative endeavours.

Paddy said he’d never sought compensation and didn’t know if now he could manage going through the whole process. If monetary redress were available he’d put it towards a scholarship for young people. ‘It’s unfortunate that any compensation at all doesn’t bring back the dead.’

A succession of people he’d met from his mid-teens on had helped him do well in life, he said. ‘I’ve never been negative. I think that’s always been important for me. … And people believed in me. I think that’s really important too. Even though I didn’t believe in myself, other people believed in me.’

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