‘From Grade 7 on – I think it was Grade 7, it might have been Grade 8 – this is where it really first started … He was out the front of our place taking photos. This is way back, right from the start of it, and then he actually came to the house. We saw him and all of a sudden he made out that he was in the area and, “Fancy just turning up and being at the right spot at the right time”, and introduced himself to Mum and Dad. They actually brought him in and gave him a meal.
‘And that’s where it all first started. So he befriended the family in that way and then over a period at school, he was extremely friendly. He was a little bit over the top to be honest but look, that was a bit of a normal thing back then. It didn’t seem that it was a situation where he was trying to go where he was going.’
Peter Carter was known in Timmy’s Catholic school as a teacher who’d tried to kiss and molest boys, but although some would ‘smack him and tell him to get lost’, most of Carter’s behaviour went unchallenged.
In the mid-1970s, when he was 13 years old, Timmy was completing his bronze swimming medallion with his friend, David, when Carter offered his home as a place to stay so the boys wouldn’t have to travel several hours to and from their own homes. Timmy was reluctant to accept the offer, but agreed at the urging of David.
Carter took the boys to the course and in the evening gave them take-away food and Southern Comfort for dinner. After a few drinks, David passed out and Carter starting sexually abusing him. The teacher then started taking off Timmy’s clothes. Stripped down to his underwear and drunk, Timmy punched Carter and ran out the door, knocking on neighbourhood doors for help. Several people opened their doors and then closed them in Timmy’s face.
Eventually, Carter found Timmy wandering the street and picked him up and put him in the car. The next morning both boys were dropped home and nothing further was said about the abuse. Timmy didn’t tell his parents what had happened because he was scared of what they’d do because he was drunk and underage.
Back at school, Carter continued to be overly friendly towards Timmy and marked him up in exams and assignments. Carter’s contact with the family stopped after an episode when he visited Timmy in hospital and made his way into the ward while Timmy’s parents remained in the waiting area. ‘My father had words with him’, Timmy said. ‘And he pretty well backed off at that point.’
Timmy left school in the middle of Year 12. ‘I couldn’t say it was because of him, but looking back it was a big reason … It’s hard to explain. You just want to get away from the person.’
After 10 years of marriage Timmy told his wife what Carter had done to him. His disclosure came after he heard from a friend that Carter was still teaching at the school. He ‘saw red’.
Upon hearing the news, Timmy rang the Queensland Catholic Education Office to report Carter. From there he was referred to Towards Healing, a process he found helpful but that seemed to miss the point, which Timmy thought was to address the fact Carter was still around children.
Looking back, Timmy thought the person he’d met with through Towards Healing had misrepresented himself. Emphasising a background in policing, the man told Timmy that he’d need corroborating evidence for his story, and that it wasn’t illegal for someone to serve alcohol to minors on private property. Timmy was offered counselling sessions and attended a few but it wasn’t really the outcome he wanted.
‘I would describe him as a no-empathy type’, he said. ‘Straightforward. He came across like, “What are you trying to get out of it? Where are you coming from?” It was a hard, cold interview which went nowhere in the long run except they put me on Towards Healing which was just a situation where I went at night-time and talked about various things in life. It was very non-specific.’
Soon afterwards, Timmy heard that Carter had resigned. He didn’t know if it was coincidence or if action had been taken by the Catholic Education Office, but he remained worried that Carter could still get a job in an organisation like Scouts, ‘as these people do’.
Timmy thought it was likely the Christian Brothers and other teachers knew about Carter, but casual violence was so routine it seemed unlikely a complaint would be made about a peer’s behaviour.
‘I really believe it was part of the norm. Not saying that everyone was like this, but it was more - who wants to step out of the comfortable box to expose something like this without direct evidence? Back in those days abuse was normal. Our teachers would open up a bag and they’d have five different straps and they’d say, “Which one do you want to get used today?” We had a saying that if I go to school, even my lunch box could get the strap.
‘We had one teacher who was there to break the all-world record. He gave out about 270 straps before little lunch. He would stand at the front of the class, if you weren’t paying attention, he would throw a tennis ball at you. He hit one of the kids in the eye. The kid picked it up and threw it back at him and he came down and strapped him across the face. It was a different era. It really was.’