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Patrick James's story

As a young, gay teenager Patrick had an unusually mature understanding of his own sexuality. This understanding opened his eyes to the ‘sinister’ things that were going on at his school and protected him from paedophile teacher, Brother Carmody.

‘I was strong enough within myself’, Patrick said, ‘to know that I was never going to give him the opportunity to get his hands onto me.’

Brother Carmody was one of several Christian Brothers who ran Patrick’s high school in Melbourne during the 1960s. Patrick saw him one day peering out of a window. Following the Brother’s line of sight, Patrick saw that he was spying on another student. The student was a friend of Patrick’s, and also gay. Carmody was watching him as he made an obvious beeline straight from school to a nearby area that was famous as a gay beat.

‘That was my first awareness that he was taking an interest in anyone who might have had some sort of homosexual leaning.’

The next red flag went up during a PE lesson with one of the lay teachers. This teacher had a strap on the end of his whistle which he often used to hit the boys’ bottoms. Patrick noticed both the PE and teacher and Carmody leering at the boys.

‘I suppose that’s the only way I can describe it. With all the setting up of the hitting of the bottom and everything – in that time there’s enough time to observe the way they’re approaching it … There was a sinisterness about it.’

There were also those random occasions when Brother Carmody would stick his head over the toilet cubicle to spy on Patrick and the other boys.

After enduring a year or so of this unsettling behaviour, Patrick’s grades dropped. There was some talk of him repeating a grade but Brother Carmody quashed that option. In a twist that Patrick now finds darkly amusing, Carmody expelled him from the school on grounds that he was ‘too knowing’ and ‘too old in the head to mix with younger children’.

Patrick moved to a state school near his grandparents’ house. It was a good school that emphasised the Arts. In the normal course of events Patrick would have excelled there, but after everything he’d seen he no longer felt normal. He went ‘delinquent’ for a year and ended up having a brief stay in jail.

Fortunately he pushed through his delinquent phase and entered the workforce. One of his first jobs was at a care facility for disabled children. He found the place disturbingly similar to his school. One of the nurses, a man named Joe Wishart, was often cruel and violent to the children. Patrick suspected that Wishart was also sexually abusing some of the staff, many of whom were new immigrants who spoke little English.

Eventually Patrick reported Wishart to the head nurse. They had a civil but useless conversation. ‘As much as he was nice and didn’t resist or anything like that or say, you know, “It’s not true” or whatever, I just got the feeling that he already knew.’

Nothing was done and a few weeks later Patrick quit the job. It was a major turning point in his life. He went on to find a much better job which led to a successful and interesting career.

These days Patrick is still troubled by his memories of school and the care home, and he’s never talked about his experiences in detail with anyone. Still, he considers himself to be one of the fortunate ones. That’s why he decided to come to the Royal Commission.

‘I don’t really consider my situation to be nearly as traumatic as those that I’ve heard of others, but you do feel like you’re coming for all the people who maybe couldn’t come for whatever reason.’

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