Victims tell of merciless abuse
Evidence: John Hennessey. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

A former resident of the Christian Brothers' Bindoon orphanage yesterday exposed harrowing details of his exploitation by the home's brothers, telling the first Perth hearing of a royal commission of his years of being groomed as a sex "pet" and sadistically beaten.

John Hennessey, the first witness at the hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, described being repeatedly and mercilessly raped, forced into child labour and beaten so brutally that he once believed he would die.

At times breaking down, and prompting some in the packed public gallery to weep uncontrollably, Mr Hennessey said he had been subjected to the "most distorted, twisted patterns of sexual" behaviour by criminals who were safe in the knowledge that his legal guardian - the State Government - would never bother meeting its responsibilities.

Mr Hennessey, placed at the home in 1947 as a child migrant and remaining there for five years, said his abuse was clear evidence that the State Government and other institutions, such as police, had been in collusion with the Catholic Church.

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He is one of 11 former residents of four WA Christian Brothers' homes - Bindoon, Clontarf, Castledare and Tardun - who will give evidence to the royal commission over two weeks.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness told the hearing the experiences of the men in seeking redress for the abuse, including the handling of complaints by the Christian Brothers, police and State prosecutors, would also be explored.

Ms Furness told the inquiry that 32 religious or lay staff in the institutions had been accused of abuse but only one had been jailed. She said witnesses would allege they reported abuse but were not believed by authorities.

Mr Hennessey named brothers O'Sullivan, O'Neill, Parker, Wise, Angus, Murphy, Tupping, Moore, O'Doherty and Keaney as responsible for the abuse at Bindoon.

He said he had been plied with alcohol at age 11 by the home's priest, Father William, before being sexually abused and learnt to treat food as a currency.

"I would do anything, and let anyone do anything to me, just for a decent feed," he said. "It made me steal. It made me feel angry and ashamed. By the time I left Bindoon, I felt nothing unless I had a strong protector at my side. Within myself I was nobody. I have lost my dignity and my self-respect. I have lived a life of pain, confusion and terrible loneliness."

Mr Hennessey said Federal and State politicians and senior police used to visit the home. "They must have seen the terrible state of the boys, but nothing was ever done to improve our living conditions, reduce the violence and assaults, or even make sure that we had decent food," he said.

"I specifically remember serving wine and food to Sir Paul Hasluck, the future governor-general of Australia, Senator O'Sullivan, Senator Dorothy Tangney, Australia's first female senator, and the police commissioner."

James Albert McGregor gave evidence of similar emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Murphy at Clontarf and Castledare. Mr McGregor, who went on to teach with the Christian Brothers for more than 30 years, revealed details of his attempts to expose the abuse.

Former Castledare residents John Wells and Oliver Cosgrove gave accounts of sexual and physical abuse at Castledare and Clontarf.

The West Australian

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