‘I don’t feel like I’ve been emotionally scarred by the experience. I just think that telling my story should be a piece of the jigsaw that the Royal Commission is putting together.’
Tobias was six years old when his father died in the mid-1960s. In Grades 5 and 6 when Tobias attended the local Patrician Brother’s school he was taught religion by Brother Aurelius who was also the primary school principal. ‘He was always joking and easy to get on with. He had a good relationship with my mother and I assume other parents as well.’
Tobias used to joke with two of his Grade 5 friends about Brother Aurelius fondling their genitals, but none of the boys ever disclosed the behaviour to an adult.
‘In retrospect, the one fear I would have had is what my mother would have done’, Tobias said. ‘She would have acted, and she would have been a lone voice in the 1970s taking on the Patrician Brothers. I’m so glad I didn’t tell her. I think that would have been emotionally horrific for her to take on the might of the Catholic Church.’
During class, Brother Aurelius rotated boys to sit at a desk he’d placed in front of and close to his own. Tobias said throughout the class Brother Aurelius would position himself so that he had one hand on the inside of his robes and the other down the pants of whoever was sitting in front.
‘He’d fondle my penis and when he had to get up, he’d seamlessly get out of that position and write on the board and came back to that position, again putting his hands down the pants.’
Whenever Brother Aurelius was in the room, one boy or another would be sexually abused. To Tobias it occurred every six weeks over a period of two years. On one occasion, he found himself alone with Aurelius in a sports equipment room and the Brother tried to digitally penetrate his anus. ‘I couldn’t go anywhere because his hand was like a plank down my pants. I tried to move. I remember being thrown forward and back. I was bewildered, shocked, scared as well. That had never happened before.’
Unsuccessful in his attempt, Aurelius left the room without comment. ‘Not a word. No threats. No acknowledgement that it happened at all.’
The abuse stopped when Tobias went into high school. He did well academically and subsequently attained tertiary qualifications that led to a successful career in the health sciences.
Tobias married in the early 1990s and disclosed the abuse to his wife early on in their relationship. He also told his mother who was ‘horrified’ and said she wished he’d told her at the time. ‘Nowadays anybody reporting child sexual abuse would be listened to. Back then people weren’t aware it was happening even though it was rife. I don’t know that anything could have been done.’
Tobias said he and his wife made a commitment early in their married and parenting lives to ensure open communication with one another and their children, and it had worked well.
‘Every child should know that nobody has the right to touch or violate them in anyway. I think it comes back to the family. If the family’s close and the children know they can come to their parents without getting into trouble or feeling afraid of the reaction from their parent then children will be open.’
For several years in the 1990s, Tobias had periods where the abuse ‘would come up’. In the late 1990s, he contacted the Patrician Brothers to inform them of Aurelius’s abuse of him and other boys in the early 1970s. He spoke to the head of the order who reported that Aurelius had recently been convicted of child sexual abuse and jailed for seven years. ‘He also went on to reassure me that once he was out of jail the order would not let him be put back into society. They’d take him under their wing and make sure he wasn’t a threat to children. But there was no offer or suggestion of me going to the police or telling my story at a greater level.’
Tobias said Aurelius being in jail gave him some sense of ‘closure’. He didn’t think about the abuse again until the announcement of the Royal Commission when he decided to tell his story. ‘I thought it is another incidence and it should be properly recorded.’
He’d also recently heard about the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing process and was considering engaging with them. ‘As an institution they should be accountable for issues that went on back then.
‘I say it hasn’t impacted on me but here I am talking about it after 45 years.’