Pierre was 10 years old when he and his family arrived in Melbourne from overseas in the 1970s. Pierre’s parents separated soon afterwards and the children were made wards of the state. The three girls in the family were sent to one orphanage while Pierre and his brother went to a government-run residential reception centre before being placed in a Catholic boys’ home.
After several weeks in the reception centre, Pierre became homesick and set off to find his mother. He followed the tram tracks, asking people for directions but with limited English he wandered lost for hours before being picked up and returned to the centre. As punishment for running away he was sent to a locked cell where he was sexually assaulted one night by a centre worker.
‘Someone opened the door. The lights were off. The officer came in, a very big man. I was 10 and a half. He jumped on the bed and forced my head into the pillow. He took his penis out and forced it into my anus. He raped me.’
Pierre didn’t see who attacked him, but he had to be a worker because they were the only ones with keys and access to the cells. The man’s actions after the assault led Pierre to believe it wasn’t the first time he’d assaulted someone. ‘He said, “Go and have a shower”. I’m a hundred percent this must have happened before. I was so scared to come out of the shower. When I came back there was another set of sheets on my bed. I was so scared. I never saw his face but he was there all the time. He had the place in his hand.’
When Pierre was released from the cell, he tried to tell the home’s superintendent about the abuse, but was told not to tell lies.
Pierre told the Commissioner that he and his brother spent a year in the centre before being sent to a Catholic orphanage. His only happy times there were those spent at the home of a classmate from the outside school he attended. ‘It was the first time I felt like I had a family. I was safe. I was happy. When I had to go back on Sundays I felt depressed.’
Pierre mostly stayed in the orphanage on weekends and during school holidays. The few boys there were supervised by the live-in Christian Brothers and Pierre was sexually abused many times over the years by Brother Donaldson.
Donaldson started the abuse by watching Pierre shower and ordering him to masturbate himself. The first time it happened Pierre started crying and Donaldson yelled at him to do what he was told. ‘I felt ashamed, embarrassed. I got an erection and he walked out. I stayed in there for two hours.’
One day Brother Donaldson called Pierre into his room and told him he was going to punish him for misbehaving. ‘He strapped me three times. He had his right hand over my mouth. I struggled and pushed and kicked. He placed his penis inside my anus. He raped me.’
Pierre went to the shower and was bleeding from his rectum, but was too embarrassed to tell the school nurse. Donaldson threatened Pierre that if he told anyone about the rape, he’d be sent back to the reception centre.
Despite the threat, Pierre went to the Brother who was in charge of the orphanage and tried to disclose the abuse. ‘I said, “Things have happened to me here”. He said, “You’re going to be okay”. I told him I wasn’t okay. Then he put his hand inside my shirt and massaged my back. I went to see him on three occasions. I said, “Something’s happened to me with Brother Donaldson. I thought he would have asked, “What?”, but he just said everything would be okay. He allowed me to be abused. There was something a bit strange about him. I finally realised there was something wrong with the boys’ home. There was something not right about it.’
When he left the home, Pierre completed a trade apprenticeship, then married and had two children. He only recently disclosed the abuse to his wife. ‘It took me a long time to seek help. I’ve seen counsellors but I’ve never had the guts to say what happened. I’ve lived with flashbacks all my life.’
He told the Commissioner that he was now seeing a new counsellor and although Donaldson was dead, he planned on making a report to Victoria Police so a record of his abuse could be added to the many others made by ex-students of Donaldson’s. He also recently contacted a legal firm and was considering making a civil claim against the government of Victoria and the Christian Brothers. This marked a change, he said, from the silence he’d been carrying for 46 years.
‘I have children, I have to live and think positive. I have a wonderful wife. It’s been something I’ve kept with me most of my life and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve just had to be strong.’