Clutching a photograph of his mother, with an Order of Australia medal on his chest, former child migrant John Hennessey arrived this morning to give evidence at the first Perth public hearing of a national royal commission.
Mr Hennessey came from NSW to testify at the Royal Commission into Institutional responses to Child Sexual Abuse about his harrowing childhood at Bindoon Farm School, run by the Christian Brothers of the Catholic Church.
Mr Hennessey said outside the commission his Irish mother was told by the church that he died at birth and he did not see her again until he was 57 years old.
"We have come here to expose one of the most hideous stories that this country has ever seen - that vulnerable little children were deported without their mothers' will and it was state sanctioned," he said.
"To think that kids like us at 10 were so brutalised in many ways is just hard to comprehend.
"I'm lucky I'm not in a mental home. I'm lucky I'm not in my grave.
"What's kept me going is my mother because she suffered as well, she didn't know where I was. It's like a mission, a passion, that these men of the cloth have got to be brought to justice."
Mr Hennessey said he would testify about sexual abuse and terrible violence at the Bindoon home when he was there between 1947 and 1953, and his attempts to have his allegations dealt with and believed.
"Why I'm pleased here today is that at long last, our voices will be heard," he said.
"Nobody before would listen to us and I'm still having nightmares to think why the church through the Christian Brothers hated us and abused us. After all, we were just God's little children."
This morning, the commission is expected to hear an opening statement about horrific abuse at Christian Brothers institutions in Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf and Tardun, and the church's attempts to cover it up.
Silent protesters from the International Association of Former Child Migrants and the Care Leavers Australia Network stood with placards outside the building in St Georges Terrace this morning to support victims giving evidence over the next two weeks.