With his father often away overseas, Werner came to see Pastor Brand as a role model and father figure. The pastor’s arrival in the small Baptist community had been like a breath of fresh air, Werner said.
‘You got to understand he came into our church like a revelation. Everyone revered him. He was a young preacher and he got up and spoke and everyone was a bit mesmerised. I remember that and we were all sort of caught up in it. He used to come to our place, Mum used to feed him a lot. He was in our house as well. He used to love fried egg with salt and pepper. And Mum … used to love looking after everyone food-wise.’
Pastor Brand took Werner away on trips interstate and sexually abused the eight-year-old on these occasions as well as at home in Sydney. The abuse occurred over two years, although Werner said he didn’t think of it as being abuse at the time, nor did he think of telling anyone.
‘It was part of the relationship to me’, he said. ‘I just thought it was general loving, you know what I mean? When you’re eight or 10 … My mum did ask me once, “Did he do anything to you?” and I just thought it was natural affection and I said, “No”.’
After two years Brand moved to another church, became involved with a woman who had three sons and stopped contact with Werner, which devastated him.
Werner told the Commissioner that he thought the abuse had made him strong and honest in his life, and he was able to see through people who ‘masqueraded’. He’d never told anyone directly about the abuse, but whenever he heard positive comments about Brand from his sister or others in the church, he told them there was more to Brand than they knew.
In the 2000s as media reports surfaced about child sexual abuse in church organisations, Werner rang the Baptist Church and reported what had happened to him with Brand in the mid-1960s. Within an hour of his phone call, a pastor he didn’t know was at his door. Werner found the visit very strange, particularly the man’s extended discussion of the work he was doing with a national football team. Soon afterwards, Werner was offered, and accepted, 10 counselling sessions. He found it of slight help, but the counsellor who was nominated by the Baptist Church had minimum qualifications.
In the mid-2010s he again approached the Baptist Church, this time through their Ministry Standards office, but he was told that the Church couldn’t offer him anything and he should take his Medicare card and seek a counsellor who bulk-billed.
Werner said a decade earlier he wouldn’t have thought of speaking to anyone about the abuse. ‘It’s only been in the public arena in the last 10 years for me to come out and tell someone about it, you know what I mean? I put my feelers out, but you’ve got to man up and sort of carry on. That’s the Australian psyche a little bit as well. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have known who to turn to. Just 'cause it’s in the media so much, makes it easier. There’s probably thousands coming out like us. … The only reason I told my sister, I didn’t actually say anything, I just said, “Look he was a grub, let me tell you”. That was about it. I didn’t scratch the surface.
‘As a young man, I don’t know, I’m a bit emotional now, but I tried to beat it all the time. I made a pact to be truthful. It might have helped me in a lot of ways I’d say – being really close to my kids.’