Philip’s father was absent for many years when Philip was growing up, due to his involvement in World War II. Philip was placed in the first of two Catholic orphanages in Melbourne in the late 1940s, when he was around seven years old, and only got to see his family at Christmas. ‘I just ended up in the homes, I can’t remember why. I can remember the homes very well. They’re stuck in my memory.’
The second home, which Philip came to at the age of nine, was run by the Christian Brothers. Philip still has a photo of these men: ‘Out of the 10, there was only two that were perfect gentlemen’. The other eight he remembers as ‘mongrels’.
Brother Hetherington – ‘I call him the Devil ... very violent, and very cruel’ – raped Philip frequently over a period of six months when Philip was around nine years old. Philip told some of the other boys he was being abused, and learned he was not the only one.
These assaults ended when one of the kind Brothers intervened to keep Philip safe. This happened after Philip had run away from the home and been returned by police. He didn’t tell the police why he had left. ‘I didn’t know how to, at that age.’
Police were notified about some of Brother Hetherington’s offending in the 1950s. ‘That was after I left. Apparently he abused some other kid, and the police were brought into it then ... He’s dead now, thank Christ. I hope he went to hell. I hope he burns down there.’
Philip returned to his parents’ care but could not bring himself to disclose this abuse to them, even though his father had also spent time in a Catholic orphanage as a boy (‘he always said he had a good time’). He went to high school briefly before beginning work as a truck driver – an occupation which suited him as he got to be alone.
When Philip was in his early 20s he approached the Church for assistance. ‘I just needed someone to sit down and talk to, you know. And I went to see this priest, and he just slammed the door. He said “I’m sorry, I’m too busy”, and slammed the door in my face. Well that’s it, you can stick your religion up your clacker, I’m finished.’
He has found memories of the abuse never go away, no matter how much he tries to put them to the back of his mind. The abuse also gave him a ‘short temper’ and made him ‘very angry. Because I couldn’t do nothing about it. I was too young. If I’d have known what I know now, he would have been a very sorry man’.
Philip has had troubles with interpersonal relationships, but married and had children. His second wife was of great support ‘and helped me right through it’, and his son is supportive also. He had some counselling but did not find this useful. ‘It was just the same thing over and over and over ... I just didn’t bother going back.’
Around six years ago Philip went through the Towards Healing process, and received around $30,000 compensation – ‘which I reckon wasn’t enough’. He received an apology too, from the Christian Brothers. ‘I just tore it up. It was rubbish.’