Wayne told the Commission that he was abused at least 150 times over a four-year-period by his school counsellor, Mr Upton.
It was the late 1970s and Wayne had just begun his first year at high school. He was sent to see Upton after misbehaving in class one day when he was about 13 years old. Upton asked Wayne about his family and, ‘He said that we just had to calm me down and get me to relax so that I wouldn’t continue to misbehave’.
Upton then told Wayne to lie down on the bed. He massaged Wayne’s feet and legs and touched his pelvis. Over the next few sessions Upton massaged Wayne while leading him through visualisations.
‘He would ask me to concentrate on trying to hear the surf and smell the sea. He would then get me to focus on the clouds and suggest that I was on the clouds and drifting off to the horizon. It was a method to totally relax me and to move my focus away from my immediate surrounds. I felt cognisant to everything that was going on around me but disempowered at not having any control. I knew what was happening but I couldn’t do anything about it.’
After leading Wayne into this relaxed state, Upton fondled and masturbated him. The abuse continued once or twice a week for the next few years and continued to include penetration.
During this time, Upton introduced Wayne to another man, Mr Steiner, who sexually abused him using the same ‘relaxation techniques’.
Then one day when he was in year 11, Wayne overheard another boy talking about how much he hated Upton. The boy explained how after being forced to attend sessions with Upton for weeks on end, he eventually took a stand and refused to go back. Inspired, Wayne decided to follow the boy’s example and stood up to both Steiner and Upton, bringing an end to the abuse.
Throughout his ordeal Wayne had not mentioned his experiences to anyone. He told the Commissioner that he kept quiet because of threats from his abusers who told him that if he talked it would ‘break his parents’ hearts’ and he would be arrested for spreading false information.
Nevertheless, when Wayne heard that some of his friends had been abused by a priest associated with the school, he decided to speak out. He reported Upton, Steiner and the priest to the Bishop. The Bishop referred him on to the parish administrator. The administrator then echoed the same threats that Wayne had heard from the men who abused him.
‘He started to grill me about the complaints I had made, telling me that what I was suggesting would affect good people’s lives. He said that telling people what I had said would be embarrassing for both me and my family.’
Wayne told the Commissioner he has been ‘scarred’ both by the abuse and the response of the authorities. And he feels that he’s not the only one.
‘I’m part of what I really believe is a broken generation because it was so rampant, there were so many barriers, it was such an inherent societal thing. It wasn’t institutional it was societal.’
Wayne feels that there is a lack of uniformity in the laws made by the different states, and this works to deny survivors access to justice. He wants the Commission to recognise that networks of abuse can operate across multiple institutions and he wants a national system to cut through delays and red tape.
‘This state barrier business has got to stop. There has to be a uniform access to justice and there has to be a uniform application of the law, and it needs to sit under the Commonwealth.’