‘Unfortunately because of what happened in my life as a child, I never really stayed in the workforce.’
Reece’s mother’s strict Catholicism discouraged him from disclosing that he was being sexually abused by Brother Morton at school.
‘My mother had funny ways with authority’, Reece said. ‘Someone in authority was in authority and she would never go outside that. I mean, if I had told her this back then, she would have said I was mad. She wouldn’t have believed it.’
In the 1970s, Reece was 14 and having trouble at home. His father was an alcoholic and Reece ‘was running scared every day’ from him, often sleeping badly. His mother confided to the Brothers about the difficulties he had getting his homework done, and Morton used this as an opportunity to single out Reece.
As class started, Morton would say, ‘I bet you haven’t done your homework. Come with me’, and Reece would be taken into the storeroom and sexually abused. Other boys teased Reece, calling him ‘teacher’s friend’ and other names. Some boys lived in the orphanage across the road and talked about the Christian Brothers often coming into the home to abuse them.
The abuse continued throughout the year and Reece did everything he could to avoid Morton – arriving late to morning assembly and hiding while classes were in progress. ‘I left school when it was time to leave the school’, he said. ‘It even got to the point I wouldn’t do my exams, because I was terrified of him.’
After leaving school, Reece worked in trade and manufacturing industries but had trouble staying in a job. ‘I’m a recovering alcoholic’, he said. ‘I’ve never been able to hold a job. I’ve never been one for authority.
'I’ve been off the drink 30 years, touch wood, but it got me into a lot of trouble as far as, you know, nothing serious, but .05s. I’ve been with my wife 40 years and I don’t know how she’s put up with it.’
Reece said he’d always felt uncomfortable showing affection to his children and grandchildren because he was worried about what other people might think. If a man came to the house, and the children ran up to him and sat on his knee, Reece would become anxious.
‘I’d try to get that kid off that knee without offending him, you know. But doesn’t matter where I am, when I see that happen, my thoughts are straightway, “What’s this bloke?” I can’t help it.’
Reece hadn’t disclosed the abuse by Morton to anyone. He’d received counselling for other issues, including a sexual assault by a family friend that also occurred at 14 and which had resulted in criminal charges being brought against the perpetrator. Reece’s wife knew of those circumstances but hadn’t heard of the abuse by Morton until Reece told her he was going to speak to the Royal Commission.
Reece said he was seeking legal advice about accessing compensation through the Catholic Church, and he’d encouraged several friends who’d attended the orphanage to tell their stories to the Commission.
‘It’s a daily thing with me. You hear it on the radio, I see it in the papers – child abuse this, child abuse that. It’s a video just plays in my mind every day of what happened on the two occasions – the Brotherhood and the family. I live that every day of my life.
'And I think, "Well, I want to have my say about the Christian Brothers", because I haven’t been able to do it in years. And I want to have my say.’