Tumus was born in Malta in the early 1950s. His parents had a large number of children and found it impossible to look after them all in their small house. At the age of four, Tumus was placed in an orphanage. When he was 10, he was sent to Australia as a child migrant, with several of his brothers. ‘I was told … and I’ll never forget it … I was told, “You are going to Australia to get a better education and to get a better life”.’
When they arrived in Australia, Tumus and his brothers were sent to an orphanage in rural Western Australia, run by the Christian Brothers. ‘When I got to [the orphanage] … if you were heard speaking Maltese, you got belted. But at the same time, nobody sat me down and said “Today, we’re gonna learn English”. They just stuck me in school and that was it.’
Tumus was physically abused by a number of Brothers at the orphanage, and sexually abused by Brother Weldon. Unable to perform well at school because of his poor English, Tumus ‘became a working boy … at the age of 13 I was hired out to people, on a tractor’. Tumus told the Commissioner, ‘that’s all we were, we were just … you know, little slaves’.
Brother Weldon ‘had a habit of coming along and when you had a shower. You had these curtains … He’d pull ’em open and just … just stare at ya … not all the boys, because there would have been maybe eight of us as working boys’. The working boys slept in a different section to the others.
‘I used to be [Brother Weldon’s] offsider … he’d be driving his Dodge ute and I’d be sitting between him and the steering wheel … I’d be steering … and I thought that was great fun, and that’s the way I looked at it.
‘He used to … take me up to his room … What he used to do … go to his room, when the picture shows were on a Sunday, “Lift up your shirt, pull your pants down, face the wall” and I could hear the bed going squeak, squeak, squeak, but I didn’t know what it was … but of course, when I got older and well out of there, then I could work out what it was.’
Tumus told the Commissioner that this went on for a couple of years and the abuse got worse over time.
When he was 15, Tumus ran away and walked 25 miles to the nearest police station to report the abuse. ‘I explained the situation to ’em that Brother Weldon was interfering with me. Well, I think I said something like, you know, he was touching me … And all I got was a smack in the mouth and told … “Don’t tell lies about these good Christian men”.’
One of the other Brothers picked him up to take him back to the orphanage, and he ‘stopped the car and he belted me too’. When they got back, he was ordered to ‘write a thousand lines, “I must not run away”’.
Tumus told the Commissioner that the other Brothers at the orphanage were ‘mainly hitters, you know, they used the physical stuff … But if you call somebody punching you between your belly button and your groin, sexual, just to see you pee in your pants, well, they done that’.
The abuse that Tumus experienced has affected his adult relationships. ‘I am the number one candidate for a loner. I like to be on my own … I thought it was mainly because you don’t trust people … Well, I have two friends that I’ve had for 30 or 40 years.’
Tumus told the Commissioner that his first marriage was a disaster. ‘It was because I had no … I’ll be straight, I had no sexual experience. I was hopeless. I didn’t know anything about sex because, you know, in the orphanage, “If you look at women you go to Hell”… simple as that. So I just kept my head down … simple as that.’
To combat depression and suicidal thoughts, Tumus has always used his work. ‘That’s my escape. Work, work, work, work, work. But I’ve never achieved anything because … I can read, but I can’t write.’ He hasn’t been able to go back to school because, ‘Who’s going to pay me bills?’
Tumus received some compensation from the Christian Brothers, and from a government redress scheme, but he was disappointed because other men he knows received more than he did. ‘Yeah, look, I personally think myself that I’m worth a bit more than 45 grand from the government.’
Tumus told the Commissioner that he went to the Christian Brothers and said, ‘Be honest with me … had Brother Weldon ever did this to anybody else? The Brother admitted to me, “Yes, he did” … and you know, I felt a relief that at least somebody could believe me … That was like the world lifted off my shoulders’.
‘The sad thing about it is … why wasn’t something like this done back in the 60s or 70s … You know, the thing is, that I can hold me head up high and say … well, at least I haven’t given up. It’s very easy to drop your bundle.’
Tumus told the Commissioner, ‘Mate, all I’ve ever had is a speeding ticket and that’s all I’ve had all my life. Brother Hall said to me, “You’ll end up in jail when you leave here” and I swallow those words very proudly, ’cause he’s wrong’.