Tucker grew up in the 1950s in Sydney in a Catholic family, a faith particularly driven by his mother. He enjoyed school and was top of his class. When he was eight they moved to a new area and he switched to the local Catholic school and ‘everything went wrong’.
The school was next to the church and Tucker’s mother would leave him there before classes started because she had to go to work. The priest told him to come into the presbytery.
‘John Welsch was the priest and me mother thought the sun shone out of his arse … I was left there and this parasite was there. I didn’t know. You don’t know when you’re eight years old …
‘He got me in there to count the bottles of wine and when I turned around there he was, he had his penis hanging out. And I just froze … He didn’t threaten me. It was just, how can I say it, oral sex. What are you supposed to do? Can’t do anything. And you’re so petrified, he’s the priest. And he said to me, “Don’t tell anyone”. He said, “I don’t want to see you back down in here again”. And that was the last time I went near that church.’
Tucker said he went to school that day and said nothing. He was so scared, he soiled himself, and his sister had to come and rescue him from the toilets and clean him up.
From then on his schooling went backwards. He ended up at the bottom of the class and had to repeat a year. But nobody asked him what was wrong.
‘Just straight down. Me mother and father didn’t worry about it … They gave their children to the Church. They couldn’t have cared less about me. And I went backwards. It’s not fair … It just happened so quick.’
Welsch would often come to the house to visit the family, but he didn’t pursue Tucker. When the family went to church, Tucker would run out and play instead. He never told his parents what had happened.
He went to a Marist Brothers high school and in his second year there was called up to see Brother Karr, the principal. Tucker was worried he was in trouble as punishments at the school were harsh and he had been caned before.
‘I got called up to the office and I wanted to know why, but sitting here now thinking of how the dirty rotten system works … I’ve learnt how the system works with paedophiles … after what happened to me at that church … the nuns, the school and Welsch, they all talk. So I was a victim there handed up to Brother Karr.’
Karr took him into a back room. He was masturbating under his robes and he pulled them to the side and showed Tucker his penis.
Tucker ran out of the room and out of the school, leaving his bag and books behind. He went to his father’s workplace and told him what had happened. He thinks his father believed him but all he did was give Tucker the bus fare home. The next day Tucker enrolled himself at the local government high school but after a couple of years there he was expelled and he left formal education without receiving his school certificate.
He got an apprenticeship, then quit and got a job on the railways. One day, when he was 17, he went home and John Welsch was there, with his mother giving him cups of tea and biscuits. That’s when he decided he had to get away and joined the navy.
On his first week there he was assaulted by a group of sailors who held him down and covered his genitals with boot polish. He was later raped by a navy captain.
‘I’ve copped it all the way down the line. There’s nothing I could have done to get away from it. The only way I just walked away from my family was to go and join the navy, where I thought I’d be safe. Ha! … I just jumped out of one pot into another pot of boiling water.’
He was in the navy for several years but said his time there was a nightmare and it was as though everything followed him, leaving his career in tatters. When he left he worked in 40 different jobs until Veteran’s Affairs declared him TPI – totally and permanently incapacitated. He went through the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce and received $45,000 in compensation, all of which he gave away to homeless people.
His family broke up and he lost his home. He now sees a psychiatrist every fortnight and is much more protective towards his children than he used to be.
Tucker had never reported Welsch to the police and he accepted the Royal Commission’s help in doing so. His main focus now is on helping other survivors of child sexual abuse as a support person.
While he remains very angry and emotional about what happened to him and the impacts on his life, he was happy he made the decision to come forward.
‘I’m okay. I’ve been waiting for this day for years. I’ve sat back and listened and watched the Royal Commission and I said, “No, I’ve got to tell me story”, and so I did. So I’m here, it’s great … I’m so glad I got this done.’