The magistrate told Tony that if he behaved himself he’d be out of the boys’ home in three months. Tony believed him.
The home was located in Sydney and run by the Anglican Church. Tony arrived in the mid-1950s when he was 14 years old and was immediately put into a dorm with all the other ‘Legacy boys’. These were the kids, like Tony, who received assistance from Legacy because their fathers never came back from the war.
Months rolled by and Tony not only behaved well, he behaved exceptionally well, earning praise from the superintendent as ‘one of the best boys I’ve had’. Then, perversely, Tony’s good behaviour was used against him.
At the end of the third month he appeared again before the magistrate. The superintendent appeared too, and spoke up. He said that having a good boy like Tony at the home would ‘make my job a lot easier’.
‘He said, “I’d like to keep him a bit longer”. And that was 12 months. 15 months I spent there. And that’s when the problem started. I believe that that home was a paedophile ring.’
Over the course of a year, Tony was ‘pulled out every month by one of them scumbags’. The first was a local shopkeeper named Ken Wishart. He used to take boys away with him to his coast house for the weekend. One weekend it was Tony’s turn.
On the following Monday, Tony returned to the home, angry, confused and looking for help. But before he could tell anyone what Wishart had done to him, his two mates stepped in. They knew about Wishart and guessed what had happened.
‘They didn’t even ask me. They said, “Keep your mouth shut. It wouldn’t matter. You’d be on the bounce”. The bounce was loss of privileges, you don’t have visitors.’
So Tony kept quiet. And Wishart continued to take him away to the house every month. Meanwhile, there were other predators to worry about.
‘One was an inmate, he worked in the kitchen in the other section. Then there was this other fellow, he was about 28. He had a dramatics class.’
That was Adam Jones. Tony wasn’t a member of his class and didn’t know him ‘from a bar of soap’, yet Jones was allowed to take the boy out for the day. They went to an apartment in the city.
‘He tried to perform things on me. And I had drink of something. I cannot remember actually leaving there and how I got home.’
After several months and multiple assaults, Tony ran away. He made it all the way to the front gate of his mother’s house, but no further. His older brother came out and told him to clear off.
‘I was there for about six minutes. Back off down the station … I didn’t even get to see Mum. Maybe I could have been there for half an hour and mentioned something to her about all this.’
In his mid-teens Tony left the home for good. Legacy helped him find work and he jumped from job to job for a while, teaching himself everything he could. He settled into a trade, married young and started a family.
He liked being busy, it was one way to block out the bad memories. But the strategy didn’t always work, and for a while in his mid-20s Tony grappled with suicidal thoughts. He worked harder to bury his feelings – and his family suffered for it.
Tony’s wife, Lorraine, who attended the private session with him, told the Commissioner, ‘He’s always been a good husband, a good provider, worked very hard. But he never knew how to show love to our boys, as in affection’.
Tony added, ‘I couldn’t even let my boys hug me for a while. I felt just shame’.
During the early years of their marriage, Lorraine had little idea why Tony was so cold with his kids, why he didn’t trust anyone and why he would suddenly snap after seeing a particular kind of story on the news. Then in the early 90s he told her about the abuse, and everything fell into place. It was such a relief to finally know the truth that she insisted he tell the kids too, which Tony did. They were supportive and said that knowing his story has helped them to understand him better.
About 20 years later, Tony approached the Anglican Church and received a compensation payment. At first he was frustrated that it hadn’t come decades earlier when he could have used it to start his own business, but he got over that in his usual no-fuss, practical way.
‘I accepted what I got’, he told the Commissioner, ‘and put it to good use’.