Tears of joy amid tales of misery

Amid the gut-wrenching tales of cruelty and sin at this week's hearings of the royal commission came a ray of sunshine in the lives of two old boys.

Tony Page and Eddie Cogan had not seen each other for 67 years before spotting one another in the public gallery.

Mr Page, 82, and Mr Cogan, 77, were child migrants, shipped from Britain for a supposedly better life and raised in the harsh environs of the Christian Brothers' orphanage at Tardun.

The two elderly men repeatedly embraced, eyes misting with tears of joy and warmth.

"We're brothers," Mr Page said, grinning.

"That's right," his old friend said. "Brothers, here we are, after 67 years. As youngsters we were all brothers because we didn't have anyone else."

The Perth hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse this week took evidence from 11 former residents of the Bindoon, Clontarf, Castledare and Tardun institutions. The elderly witnesses told harrowing stories of being beaten and sexually abused by sadistic men of the cloth.

MORE ROYAL COMMISSION
SCHEME SERIOUSLY WRONG
ABUSE WAS MERCILESS
JOHN YEARNED FOR MUM
ANGER AT COMPO CUT
ABUSERS ACTED WITHOUT FEAR
WITNESSES READY
WITNESS LIST

Mr Cogan, who was 10 when he left Britain for Tardun, said he was "shocked to the core" by some of the testimony.

"Some boys knew what was going on and some of us didn't," he said. "I was particularly naive. If you were an ugly duckling like me, you were left alone."

Mr Page, who was at Tardun from ages 9 to 17, was less surprised and has some awful memories, though some good ones, too.

"We used to go on picnics and catch emus and kangaroos," he said. "I remember when we had a mouse plague and we got a farthing for every mouse we caught. We made our own mouse traps out of jam tins."

Mr Page said strong bonds grew between the boys. "When we got to Fremantle they separated me from my older brother," he said. "I was only a little tacker and my brother was taken away.

"We were all close together. We would try to protect each other where we could."

Relationship Australia's Royal Commission Support Service: 9489 6390. Find and Connect WA: 1800 161 109

The West Australian

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