Terence's story

‘Why has it taken nearly 50 years to get to the bottom of this bullshit?’

Terence came from a large Melbourne family. By the late 1950s their father had deserted the home. Police had labelled Terence’s mother a ‘drinker’. He and two of his siblings were declared ‘uncontrollable’ and made wards of the state. Terence was sent to an orphanage run by the Christian Brothers Catholic order when he was 11 years old.

The first few years at the orphanage were tolerable. But then Terence turned 13 and he was moved downstairs to the senior boys’ dormitory. He came to the attention of Brother Fraser. ‘He was the head bastard’, Terence told the Commissioner.

‘I recall when I went to the showers, I was alone. Brother Fraser would put his hand in through the shower curtains and grab my penis and start to pull it.

‘He would be wearing a long black cassock over his pants. When he stopped grabbing me he told me not to tell anyone and to go dry off and get dressed.’

The abuse was repeated ‘three or four times’ over the next two years, until Terence was moved to another institution where he could start an apprenticeship.

Terence did not try to report Brother Fraser at the time. ‘Because no one’s gonna believe you. They’re not going to take your word over the boss’s word, are they?

‘Who are you supposed to tell? How are you supposed to go about it? You’re only a kid, you don’t know these things. You’re stuck in an orphanage. You have to do what they say when they say it.’

Rage and vengeance were on Terence’s mind while he was still at the home. ‘I wanted to kill the bastard, I honestly did. I even went to bed with a knife under my pillow. I was going to stab him at first sight.’

He recalls going looking for Brother Fraser one night, carrying his knife. He kicked in the door of Fraser’s bedroom, but found it empty. ‘I thought about smashing up broken glass and sprinkling it in his friggin’ bed. For when he went to sleep.’

Terence disclosed the abuse to a friend he made during his apprenticeship. When he ran away to New South Wales for a time, he also told his sister what had happened. She told him to ‘stay here. They can’t do nothing to you here’.

When he turned 18, Terence ceased to be a state ward and remembers feeling a sense of freedom and release. He considered the abuse ‘water under the bridge’. ‘They had no control of me whatsoever.’

Nevertheless Terence has felt the effects of the abuse all his life. ‘I wouldn’t trust no bastard after that. I got no respect for the law whatsoever. That includes coppers and all … Anyone in authority, I’d reject ‘em.’ Terence admits he has taken out his anger on the police from time to time. He has been to jail.

Having told his sister and a friend about his abuse, Terence kept his experiences secret nearly all his life. He has only recently been sharing his past with a support group run by a community organisation where he now lives. ‘We’ve all been there, done that shit, so we can all open up.’ The group members share strategies for coping with the effects of their abuse. Terence has found it helpful.

He welcomed the chance to share his story with the Royal Commission. ‘I hope and expect you fellas just to jump on this mob’s head. Irrespective whether it’s Catholic, Protestant, Church of England, Salvos. Children can’t put up with this bullshit all the time.

‘Yesterday’s gone. You can’t change yesterday. But you can change tomorrow.’

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