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Warwick's story

At 15 years of age, Warwick was one of the youngest recruits at his Royal Australian Navy base. It was a brutal place for new recruits in the early 1960s.

Warwick was forced to run the gauntlet, being hit with bags full of shoes. He was beaten up, and pushed over in the shower, splitting his tooth. The older recruits would scrub the newer ones with strong detergent and straw brooms, scratching them all over.

When a close relative died, Warwick’s father called the base to tell him. He also arranged for the Catholic chaplain, Father Carmichael, to console Warwick. ‘He took me off base and we went to the house which is next to the church. He went in there and I went in with him and there was a housekeeper there, I can still see her standing there, and she gave me a real strange look.’

Carmichael drove Warwick to a nearby beach, ‘and he took his clothes off and he said, “You'd better take your clothes off because you'll get sand in your uniform.”

‘He helped me with my jacket, which is pretty tight-fitting across the top, and took my clothes off and then he sat down on the beach next to me and he started touching me ... Then he proceeded to have oral sex. This is his consoling.’

Carmichael also had anal intercourse with Warwick on a number of occasions. The priest was known for his sexual activities with the young servicemen. ‘He had a harem, don't worry about that.’

Warwick stopped going to mass, and began attending Protestant services instead. Carmichael approached Warwick about this, and told him that he needed to hear his confession. ‘So he took my confession, but he kept asking about things like do I masturbate and I thought that was a bit strange because I don't consider that as a sin or anything like that.’

Despite these experiences, Warwick loved his work and stayed in the navy for a decade. He volunteered for positions in remote areas, where he would be alone a lot of the time.

Shortly after the abuse, Warwick began drinking heavily, ‘I was always drunk’. He mostly managed to hide his intoxication during his service, even when he was consuming pure alcohol.

By the time he was in his second marriage, ‘I was consuming three bottles of scotch and at least two slabs of beer a week ... I used to arrange to go to the pub at lunchtime and at least have three pints in half an hour and then work for the rest of the day and then go home and drink.’

He has only recently begun limiting his alcohol consumption. ‘It has been two years now where I have remained relatively sober, except for once when I fell off the fence. Smoking cigarettes, I used to smoke them like nobody's business. I smoked for 51 years before I stopped smoking.’

Warwick has had difficulties dealing with men throughout his adult life, which has impacted negatively upon his social and professional life. ‘When I did drink at the pub, I always drank by myself and I always had my back to the wall, because I don't trust males.’

He only has contact with one male friend, as ‘I prefer talking to females rather than males, which sometimes gets me into trouble. But I can't stand males touching me at all’.

Wanting nothing to do with religion, he joined a lodge, ‘but that was all men, and they became too hands-on and it was always hands around your shoulders and things like that’.

Even going to memorial services became difficult. ‘I noticed the last two years when I was going to Dawn Service that I didn't like being in the crowd because there's too many men around.’

His reactions to men nearly cost him a job too. ‘I was on night duty one night and there was an officer touched my leg. I said to him, “Don't, I don't like it”. He did it again. I said, “Now, listen, this is your last warning, don't touch me there”. He did, and he got flattened and it took three officers to pull me off him.’

As a result of his experiences in the navy, Warwick lives with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. When he first disclosed the abuse to a psychologist, ‘I told her and she said, “Oh, but that was a long time ago, don't worry about it”.’

His medical care is now being covered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and he is on medication to manage his mental health. ‘I know I'm going to be on drugs for the rest of my life. I virtually stop taking them and I go to pieces.’

Warwick did not tell either of his wives about the sexual abuse, nor his children. He has recently disclosed it to Claire, his long-term partner.

Claire supported Warwick when he met with the Royal Commission, and noted ‘It's a bit of a sore point because I was never told about it ... I wouldn't have detected anything would have happened throughout the time we have been together in 30 years’.

He has never applied for compensation from the navy, or the Catholic Church. ‘No, never worried about it. I don't know, I'd like to be compensated for my life, that's what I'd like to be compensated for.’

Warwick wonders how his life may have turned out if he had left the navy sooner. ‘And how different it would have been if I had taken my father's advice. When he rang, he said, “Don't worry, son, you're under age, I can get you out of the navy tomorrow”.’

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