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Wallis John's story

Wallis said that when he first heard about the work of Royal Commission, in its early days, it brought up some thoughts and emotions about the abuse he’d experienced as a student in the 1990s at an Anglican boys’ school in Queensland.

‘It just really angered me. And once I started getting angry I thought, I’ve got to do something about this.’

Wallis was one of many boys sexually abused by Ian Dale, the school counsellor.

‘The motivation for me is for more people to understand the extent of what Ian Dale has done. So it’s really about that … I think it’s important that everyone that’s able and willing to should come forward and put on paper their experience.’

His decision to come to the Commission also led Wallis to tell his family about what happened to him. They’re a close family, he said – ‘so I’m very lucky in that sense’ – and his brothers were students at the same school. He told them first, then his parents, and since then has also disclosed to a doctor and approached a legal firm about making a civil claim.

'I do plan to seek a refund of my school fees for my parents, as a minimum. I think that the school is in breach of their contract with my parents and they should pay that back and there should probably be some compensation for the pain and suffering that I’ve gone through.’

Wallis had about six counselling sessions with Dale, and was sexually abused during several of them. Wallis was a Year 9 student at the time, academically successful and doing well at port. But he was anxious about being small.

‘It was a concern for me with all the other boys around. Going to that school, you start having to go into locker rooms and all that stuff and get your kit off. So that was a learning experience and pretty daunting …

‘I was probably a late bloomer, you know. It took a while for me to grow up compared to the other boys, physically. And that was one of the motivating factors to go and see Ian Dale.’

At their second session, Dale asked Wallis to stand, and take his shirt and pants off.

‘I don’t feel 100 per cent comfortable going into all the details but he touched me, and – yeah. It happened two or three times and to be completely honest I can’t remember what my thought process after that was. I can’t remember how I dealt with it; whether I just tried to hide it or turn it off. But seriously there just seems to be certain things after the fact that I’ve just buried and I just don’t recall … I certainly remember everything very clearly up to that point …

‘I guess I should also comment that I understand there are boys that have had issues a lot worse than what I’ve endured … but it doesn’t take away from the experience I’ve had either.’

Dale was eventually charged with child sex offences, and took his own life shortly afterwards. In the years since, many more victims have come forward. It came as a relief to Wallis to learn he was not the only one. ‘Only because I realised that people will believe my story. It’s not been made up. It’s validated by the enormity of the issue’, he explained.

Wallis is now in his mid-30s, employed and in a steady relationship. He said it’s hard to identify what, if any, impact Dale’s assaults had on him.

‘I’ve been criticised that I’m too sensitive, over the years, but yeah I think I’m fairly well level headed and open minded and I do trust people …

‘I don’t know if there’s been any ongoing impact. Obviously I’ve got anger to deal with but I don’t know whether there’s been an impact on my life or career. I do have some other personal issues that I deal with – anxiety, and probably drink a bit too much …

‘This whole thing may well have contributed but I just don’t know.’

Wallis reported positive experiences in his contact with the Royal Commission, the legal firm he was working with and the Anglican diocese he’d reported the abuse to. ‘People were really accommodating and comforting, which is something.’

But revisiting his abuse hasn’t been easy. He told the Commissioner he’d been advised to prepare himself for how much emotion it would bring up – ‘You’ll be surprised’, he was told.

‘Yeah, I’m shocked. Like I’ve got tears in my eyes now, I just can’t believe that it does get buried so much.’

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