Simon is the eldest of a large tribe of children, raised in a staunchly Catholic family in regional Queensland – and the only sibling still committed to the faith. 'I attend church several times a week.’
Brother Mactaggert taught religion and sport; Simon at age 15 was a keen gymnast and athlete. One day Mactaggert asked Simon to help set up some gym equipment. As they worked, the Brother leant against Simon, who realised the man had an erection.
'Then he asked if I wanted to do some exercises on the mat', Simon says. He agreed – but then found himself pinned to the floor, as Mactaggert rubbed himself up and down against him.
That was when Simon belatedly recalled Mactaggert's nickname – 'Stick Merchant'.
'I sort of understood what that meant, but it didn’t click. It only made sense after the event – when I realised other boys took it seriously and kept their distance.'
Simon went home and immediately told his dad. Fortunately the two had no trouble communicating.
'He used to sit with us and hear our prayers at night … He idealised me … so I didn't have any trouble telling my father … I was sitting in the back seat of the car, he was in the front but I could tell it really hurt him.'
His dad immediately pulled Simon and his brothers out of their college, and their sisters from a nearby Catholic girls' school. He reported the abuse to the school and demanded that Mactaggert be sacked.
'When Mactaggert was still there a week later, Dad went to the bishop.' Simon believes his father threatened to report the abuse to the police, and to remove the children permanently from school if Mactaggert wasn’t removed.
A few days later, the teacher was gone and the children returned to school. But Simon feels the sexual assault has affected him ever since. He struggles with relationships and told the Royal Commission that if he sees someone more than three times a week, he feels invaded and runs away.
Although he finds solace in his religion, he has no faith in the institution of the Church: 'The only time you can trust them is the other side of the grave'.