A former Christian Brothers student has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse his abusers acted with impunity, safe in the knowledge the authorities would do nothing.
Young boys at four WA Christian Brothers homes were repeatedly raped and brutally beaten when they reported the abuse, which often led to perpetrators being removed and simply replaced with another brother who would inflict more sexual assaults.
John Hennessey spoke at first public hearing in Perth of the royal commission, saying the men who abused him during his time at St Joseph’s Farm and Trade School in Bindoon felt safe in doing so.
“I was exploited and abused by criminals (who were) safe in the knowledge that the State Government and church were my legal guardians, and would never bother to meet their responsibilities,“ he said.
Mr Hennessey was forcibly separated from his mother in Bristol, England, and sent to WA. He did not see her for another 57 years.
While at Bindoon Mr Hennessey was targeted by Brother Paul Keaney, other Christian Brothers and older children at the school.
On one occasion, Brother Keaney publicly stripped and savagely beat him.
“No one came to my aid,” said a visibly upset Mr Hennessey, the first witness at the 11th case study examined by the commission. “I am now left with a stutter.”
Earlier today Gail Furness, counsel assisting the Royal Commission, said the experiences of 11 men who were residents at the Clontarf, Castledare, Tardun and Bindoon homes for boys would be heard during the scheduled two-week hearing.
Ms Furness said 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.
"While the Christian Brothers had responsibility for the day to day care of the boys in the institutions, the WA Government had ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the boys," Ms Furness told a packed public gallery.
"Evidence will be given about the inspections of the institutions undertaken by the Child Welfare Department. The current practice of the department will also be explored."
Outlining a summary of each of the 11 former residents' evidence, Ms Furness revealed allegations of repeated sexual and physical abuse of the men at the four institutions between 1947 and 1968.
Ms Furness said a witness known as VV would give evidence that he was raped by a Brother Angus two weeks after he was placed at Bindoon at the age of nine.
"VV will give evidence that he was sexually assaulted by Brothers Parker, Dick, Quilligan and Tuppin, by older boys and also by VF, a regular visitor to Bindoon who would take the boys out on 'picnics' arranged by Brother Dick," she told the hearing.
"VV will also give evidence that he and other boys were physically abused by Brother Moore, who used leather straps with half pennies sewn in for extra weight.
"A beating left bruises and on one occasion, VV thought he would die.
"On another occasion, Brother Moore threw him against a wall and he hit his head, suffering permanent hearing loss as a result."
The 11 cases outlined by Ms Furness each included stories of repeated sexual abuse and examples of boys being beaten and suffering further sexual assaults when they reported the incidents.
Fifteen brothers were named as inflicting the physical and sexual abuse.
There were also cases of the boys being told to hide the abuse and brothers being transferred to other institutions in response to complaints.
"Common to all of those men who will give evidence is the shame, guilt and fear that they experienced as a result of the abuse," Ms Furness said.