Growing up in Victoria, Sully’s mother was an ‘abusive alcoholic’ who ‘lent me out to old men and women at the drunk parties they used to go to … Men and old ladies were taking me to the toilet with them. I didn’t know what was really happening back then’.
Sully’s parents divorced in the 1950s when he was seven, and he went to live with his father, who remarried. ‘He didn’t wanna put up with me because of the stepmother, and that’s another story. ‘Cause of the stepmother, I just wasn’t wanted anymore.’ Sully began committing petty crimes and was eventually caught and charged as a juvenile.
‘I remember going to children’s court. And the judge asked my dad, “Do you want us to put him in under ward of the state, or do you want to take him home?” And he said, “Put him in”. I became ward of the state and I don’t think I really deserved that.’
Sully was 16 when he was sent to a boys’ home which he described as ‘a prison for unwanted kids’. He was scared and cried a lot, and this made him vulnerable to the physical and sexual abuse he received from the other detainees. He complained to the authorities within the facility but nothing was done. Instead, the other inmates threatened him, so he learned to remain silent.
His father came to visit ‘a couple of times’, and although Sully wanted to disclose the abuse, by this time ‘the wall was too strong. If we were able to talk, I don’t think I would have been there’.
‘There was really no rehabilitation. All control was by rapes, bashings and fear to be demoralised, humiliated. Once you’re locked away you become a body, nothing else. You have no rights. You can’t complain to anyone about anything, If you did you were either a suck, a wimp, a lagger or a dog, and bashed for it. You just did your time and waited for the day to get out. I had no idea when I would ever get out.’
With no one else to confide in, Sully turned to Father Langdon, the Anglican priest.
‘He had a cottage on the grounds, a comfy, quiet little room away from it all. We sat and talked, he in his black clothes and collar of the priesthood.
'This was the first time anyone had taken the time to sit and listen to me, to care. I felt completely at ease with him. He held my hand with feeling and sympathy. He put his arms around me and told me God loves me. I felt good to get a lot of things off my chest, to have a good cry and not be laughed or bullied at. Just to have someone take an interest in you.’
Sully would regularly visit Langdon in his cottage. By the third visit, Langdon began asking Sully personal questions, such as if he had a girlfriend and if not, did he like boys, and also how often he masturbated. During this conversation Langdon rested his hand on Sully’s knee and slowly moved it up to his crotch before ‘accidentally’ brushing against the front of his fly. The bell then rang for tea and Sully left, confused about what had just occurred.
On Sully’s fourth visit, he ‘passed another kid coming out with a big embarrassing smile and a handful of ciggies he was hiding’. When he entered the cottage he noticed the furniture had been rearranged so that the couch and chair were positioned next to each other. Langdon brought up the subject of masturbation again before molesting Sully ‘all the while chatting away in a soothing, priestly sort of tone’. After that incident Sully avoided Langdon but was sometimes called to his cottage. ‘Sometimes I got out of it. Other times I went and I wasn’t the only kid.’
In addition to Langdon and other inmates at the home, Sully was raped by a staff member who ‘told me to say nothing or he’d get some other kids to do worse to me’. He was also visited in his room by a welfare officer who would bring him cigarettes, biscuits and mugs of hot chocolate which were laced with alcohol or some other drug before abusing him. Some years later Sully was interviewed by the police in relation to this man, but ‘nothing of great value happened. I saw him in the city one day … and now was working in an orphanage’.
Due to the abuse, Sully frequently absconded from the home, but was always caught and returned to an even longer sentence. He remained a ward of the state until he was 21. ‘I got about 30-odd escapes on me. And that was through fear of abuse … And that just went on and on and on until I was old enough to go to a male prison, an adult prison. And that’s where my career started off doing really bad stuff.’
As an adult, Sully spent much of his life in a cycle of imprisonment, release, committing more crimes to survive, rearrest and returning to prison. ‘I got into everything I could possibly get into. I got into heroin, tripping, mushrooms. I didn’t care anymore.’
At one stage, between prison sentences, Sully sought shelter in an Anglican church. Langdon happened to be the minister there and revealed to Sully an underground section which had sleeping quarters for homeless youth.
‘He introduced me to some of them, some as young as 10 or so. He told me what we could do if I moved in. He gave me $20. I went and got drunk for a few days.’
In his early 30s, Sully was serving time in prison when he was visited by a woman who he has now been married to for more than 40 years.
After that particular sentence, Sully did not reoffend or return to prison. ‘That part of my life’s gone … I haven’t done anything wrong from the day I got out of there and moved in with Kate. Life’s been good. Been hard, been very hard. But it’s been good … She’s looked after me for 40 years and put up with my nightmares and put up with my screaming and put up with crap. She’s been a wonderful woman to me … I love my children very much. We have a good relationship.’
Several years ago Sully sought advice from a legal centre who tried to assist him with pursuing a civil claim. However, Sully’s welfare files couldn’t be located and they could not provide proof of the allegations. After following Langdon’s progress on the Broken Rights website Sully made a report to the police, but was unable to pursue a criminal prosecution because the priest was deemed too ill to proceed, in spite of numerous other complainants. Langdon died 10 years later without being charged or prosecuted.
‘Most have got away with it all, especially the main person, the priest. He’s never been convicted. I know what he’s done. I know the hundreds of kids that he’s messed with, that he’s destroyed their lives. And when I put my claim in in 1999, it came back and said that he wasn’t well enough to continue. So he’s got away with it all.
‘Something’s gotta work here ‘cause I’ve given my wife hell over the years with waking up crying and jumping in bed. I’m still doing it. She says I jump and shake in bed of a night and I think “Yeah, I was … dreaming this and dreaming that”. I can’t get rid of it.
‘I’d just like people to know what happened and why nothing was done about it and how it’s affected me.’