When Monty was a teenager, he was violently raped on multiple occasions by a priest at his Catholic boarding school. He didn’t tell his family what had happened until he was in his late 30s. Despite their ignorance of the abuse until then, they have experienced the impact of it along with him. Monty’s life has been violent, unhappy and destructive, not just to himself but to those who care for him most.
‘I lost my brother when he was 17 and a half’, his sister Diana told the Commissioner. ‘I’ve spent years searching for him … He came back from boarding school a different person.’
Monty, Diana and their siblings grew up in a small Victorian town in the 1970s. ‘We had a lovely upbringing. Wonderful childhood. Fantastic childhood. Best of everything. Schools. Things. Things that money can’t buy. Love. All of that’, Diana said.
In the late 1980s, Monty and his parents settled on a nearby Catholic-run boarding school as the best option for his high school years. Developmental delays meant Monty struggled with academic subjects so he was attracted by the practical programs offered at the school.
‘He jumped at the idea of going to the school’, his mother Lorelei said. ‘When he started there, he was really, really happy’.
Diana, Lorelei and her husband Roger came to the Royal Commission to describe how Monty’s life went off the rails after the abuse, and what it had meant for them. Lorelei and Roger were supported by their parish priest, Father Timothy, who has also played a central role in efforts to care for Monty.
Monty spent a year at the boarding school and after that enrolled in a TAFE course. But after several months he ran away from home. Within a few weeks he’d been arrested for committing violent crimes, and soon afterwards was convicted and jailed. In the years that followed he abused drugs and alcohol, self-harmed, spent more time in jail and was itinerant, working for short spells on rural properties, and in small towns around the country.
Money broke off contact with his parents. Diana stayed in touch with him but the relationship was deeply painful.
‘I’ve suffered because of what happened to Monty. I’ve protected him all his life … I’ve paid off drug dealers to keep him alive. You’ve got no idea what I’ve had to do to keep him somewhat functioning in society. And he doesn’t function, at all.’
In the early 2010s, Lorelei read a newspaper article about an investigation into widespread sexual abuse at the boarding school Monty had attended. At the end of the article was a request for people with information about what had gone on to get in touch with police.
Lorelei and Roger hadn’t spoken to Monty for about eight years by then, but Lorelei kept the article, and told Diana about it. She wanted Diana to ask Monty if he was one of the victims.
‘So Diana did ask Monty when he rang her, and Diana said that Monty just erupted, absolutely verbally erupted with abuse and so on, and using phrases like, “At last the penny has dropped”’, Lorelei told the Commissioner.
Lorelei contacted police and told them about Monty. And after a while, Monty decided to return to Victoria to be part of the case against his abuser, Father Richards.
From the moment Monty arrived in Melbourne, his re-entry into the lives of his parents was extremely difficult. When they collected him from the airport they found he was recovering from a recent psychotic episode and had badly self-harmed. He had to be taken to hospital straight away. Then they took him home.
‘That night he was screaming out, he was in a shocking state. It's a terrible experience to go through … You're sort of unprepared, really. Well, nothing teaches you how to manage any of that, does it?’ Lorelei asked.
‘So that was our starting point. The next two years have been shocking.’
Different support services have been involved in helping Monty: the Salvation Army, CASA, the Bridge. Throughout the process of Richards’s trial, police and the Office of the Public Prosecutor were also helpful and understanding of Monty’s volatile, fragile state.
Richards was convicted and sentenced and for a little while it seemed Monty’s mental and physical health had improved. When his estranged wife contacted him, they decided to give their relationship another go. But then Richards successfully appealed his conviction, a retrial was agreed to, and Monty went to pieces again.
‘Things seemed to be going sort of reasonably well and manageable and slowly, like small steps at a time and a bit of falling back and that but manageable. But with the retrial, when it came up, everything has just … It's worse than it's ever been before, absolutely. At the moment the couple are separated. There's been extensive drug use from both of them’, Lorelei told the Commissioner.
Father Timothy agreed. ‘There's no question that [the retrial] was the catalyst for everything just … everything he's been building up just fell apart. The word "nightmare" doesn't sum it up enough, really.’
The stress has also badly affected Diana, who suffered a mental breakdown and had to be hospitalised. ‘And this is because the trial has had to be … you know, she thought it was over and done’, her father Roger explained.
Roger was also abused as a child, and Monty’s experiences of sexual assault have caused him to re-live his own. ‘It’s brought all this stuff up again.’
He was about eight at the time and attending his local Catholic primary school, where he was molested on several occasions by his classroom teacher. ‘He had me in the class after everyone had left, and asked me to stay back. Then he got me onto his knee and talked to me. He’d take down my pants, inspected me and played with me’, Roger recalled.
Roger mentioned the abuse to his mother. Her response was immediate. She contacted the school and went with Roger’s father to see the principal the next day. No one at school or at home spoke to Roger about what had happened, but the teacher was soon replaced.
Roger had spoken about this experience to family members over the years, but never sought counselling. He has had lifelong depression, which he now believes may be related to the abuse.
‘I’d just wake up one morning with a headache, and I’d have that headache all day long, and that would go on for months. And then another day I’d wake up and it’d be gone. And there was nothing I could find that would relieve it or take it away. Nobody could tell me what caused it … It wasn’t I suppose until I found other people who’d suffered from similar problems that I thought maybe that explains it.’
Supporting Monty through Richards’s trial led Roger to finally report his own abuse to police. But it was too late. The police officer he spoke to said it was a long time ago. ‘We can’t help you’, he told Roger.
When Roger and Lorelei visited the Royal Commission, Monty was living in a small town in Victoria, and his wife and their children were living nearby. Father Timothy and the parish community there have been very involved in helping the family.
Father Timothy was frustrated and angry about the lack of support from the Catholic order that ran the boarding school Monty went to. He had approached them personally to ask them to help Monty. He didn’t hear back. He had phoned and emailed again and still heard nothing.
‘I just think they're an utter disgrace’, he said.
‘The irony of all of this is that Monty has a few learning difficulties maybe but he was travelling along, until high school, until [Roger and Lorelei] paid out money for him to go to school. I mean it's a bit like you take your Ferrari or your Volkswagen, whatever, to the garage to have it serviced, a normal service done, and it comes back a wreck, and they say, "Oh, that's bad luck. Sorry about that", and do nothing.’
Lorelei also spoke very strongly about the Church’s failure to provide adequate pastoral care.
‘From a practical point of view, that dilemma, you know, with looking for help … if the Church would … if they could have even just employed one social worker so that there is a phone number to go to, or even two social workers because we can get these calls any time in the night or day and, you know, you can't wait a week or two weeks.’ But that kind of practical support from the Church had been absent, she said – ‘Absolutely absent.’
Instead, Lorelei believes that it is left to family and community and support groups to cobble together solutions as best they can.
‘Once again it's … what I consider as scumbags of the Church, you know, opting out of their responsibility and handing their responsibility on to others and it's the community that are picking up the Church's slackness … The archdiocese, the orders, they're just sitting back and they're doing nothing and they're getting off scot-free.’
Monty’s sister Diana told the Commissioner that trying to support him has left her permanently damaged. She suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and her confidence is ‘shattered’.
‘There’s things now I struggle with that back in the day I just did, and now I can’t. And I wasn’t the one who was sexually abused. Which makes me think that’s why Monty hasn’t been able to do things. He’s always running.’
Lorelei and Roger have little optimism about the future. They agree that Monty’s ongoing drug use has permanently affected him.
‘I think the more he's got into drugs, the more his brain has been impaired’, Lorelei said. ‘So I mean apart from having depression and so on and so forth – like he says, he's got to keep busy every day and he is busy looking after the family, but it's when it's quiet, he can't handle that. He turns to drugs’.
‘Or alcohol’, Roger added, ‘because of all the pain’.
‘And he's trying to get that stuff out of his head, which he will never, never get rid of’, said Lorelei.