‘I know there was a paedophile ring running out of [the school]. I was there when it was happening ... A young fella committed suicide because of it. We knew what was going on but none of our parents would tell us the truth. But the kids at school knew … at least three teachers that I knew there were paedophiles … I guarantee [the headmaster] was the leader of it because he’d cover up for all of them.’
Stan had a ‘very good family upbringing’ and attended an Anglican high school in the 1960s. He also attended the local church on Sundays, as well as the youth group in the church hall afterwards. Reverend Alan Drysdale led the group. He used to tell stories of being a fighter pilot in the war. ‘We’d all just be sitting there, google-eyed …
‘I used to love going to church there because we got to see all the other kids. Because you’ve been isolated … in the bush. All good fun.’
When Stan was in his early teens, Drysdale asked him to stay back and help tidy the hall, stacking chairs and tables. One day, after he’d been helping for several weeks, Drysdale asked him to sit on his lap. This was the beginning of the sexual abuse, which reoccurred six or seven times over several months.
‘I was pretty naive as a kid … When it first started happening … I was a little bit shocked.
‘He’d say, “You’re a good boy” … He’d always give me lollies and Coke or Fanta … “And thank you for helping”. He was nice, you know, he was kind to me.’ Eventually, Drysdale performed oral sex on Stan. According to a statement provided to the Royal Commission, ‘I was pretty terrified at the time and was disgusted by his behaviour. I think I ejaculated. I told him I had to go and just left. I did not know what to do and didn't know how to approach my father or tell anyone about it’.
Stan believed his father, who was loving but strict, would give him a ‘back-hander’.
‘I then played hooky. I made out I was going to youth group and ended up with some bad blokes ... They were the only people at the time that wanted me to be with them, for me. The priest, by this stage … I knew it wasn’t right. I didn’t know who to go to or what to do. But these guys, although I didn’t tell them, they accepted me as part of their gang and I felt as if I had a, you know, a group of mates … That was, sort of, the downfall.’
Stan went ‘off the rails’. He was drinking, smoking and ‘getting up to mischief’. His schoolwork suffered. About 18 months after the last incidence of abuse, Stan was joyriding with his friends in what turned out to be a stolen car. They were all arrested.
Stan’s mother told him to see the minister to help with his mental state. ‘He took me for a drive … to a beach … it was very overgrown and very secluded … I told him what I done and he said, “Okay. So let us pray”. He said, “Close your eyes”. And his hand went straight onto the groin again. Now I was older and wiser … and I said, “Look, I don’t like this. I didn’t like it before. I don’t like it now. I want to go home”.’
When Stan got home he told his parents what happened. They advised him to speak to his headmaster about Drysdale. They believed the school should do something as it had close connections with the church.
‘So that week I went and saw [the headmaster] … He said … “You don’t want to bring more shame to yourself or the school. The best thing you can do is just forget about it and get on with life”. Or words to that effect. And he turned out to be a bloody paedophile too, covering it all up.’
At the age of 15, Stan was convicted in an adult court and has had a criminal record ever since. The sexual abuse was not included as a mitigating circumstance, nor the fact that he didn’t know it was a stolen car. After that, his mother sent him to a different school and he flourished.
Later in life, Stan left his career in the public service because his record prevented him from being promoted. He went on to a variety of jobs and business ventures.
Stan’s mother sought compensation from the Church for him. Their offer was $2,000, along with a document saying he would make no further claim. Stan refused to sign it.
He wrote, ‘This whole abuse has affected my life. There has been soul-searching throughout. I have seen a psychiatrist in relation to my claim for compensation. I have drunk too much. I was beaten on appeal for the public service because I had a court conviction. I loathe paedophiles to the extent that I could easily maim them for life. I used to feel guilty about having a bath with my kids – what should have been a happy and nurturing part of parenting upset me following the abuse I suffered’.
Stan contacted the legal service, knowmore, and is in the process of seeking redress. As part of this process the Church required him to make a police statement, even though Drysdale was deceased. Stan found the police ‘very approachable’. The Church has offered some compensation but is trying to run Drysdale’s abuse and the headmaster’s response as one complaint, to save money. Stan sees them as two separate issues.
‘Fifty years ago no one wanted to hear anything [about sexual abuse] … Now there’s a whole group of people that do want to know. So things must be happening.’