THE Marist Brothers have apologised to a Hunter man who is the first to complain he was sexually abused by a Maitland Catholic school principal in the 1970s.
Patrick Garnham received the apology as part of a settlement after telling the Marist Brothers he was sexually abused by Marist Maitland principal Brother Nestor, whose real name is John Littler, in 1976 when he was 11.
Mr Garnham is speaking out because he believed the Marist Brothers were genuinely sorry for the abuse and the impact it had on his life, and because he believes other boys were victims of Brother Nestor, who was principal from 1972-1977 and went on to be charged with multiple child sex offences.
‘‘I know what effect it had on my life, until I spoke about it. For me to come out the other side and be the man I am today, it was important for me to step out of the shadows,’’ Mr Garnham said.
He told the Marist Brothers he was a ‘‘blond-haired, blue-eyed, happy fellow’’ in year 7 in late 1976 when a school loudspeaker crackled into life one morning while he was playing handball near Nestor’s office, and a voice said ‘‘Patrick Garnham wanted in the office by Brother Nestor’’.
‘‘I had no idea what I was being called there for,’’ Mr Garnham said.
In his complaint to the Marist Brothers, Mr Garnham said Nestor, then 50, said little beyond the boy’s name before the abuse started.
‘‘It was as simple as that,’’ said Mr Garnham.
In his complaint Mr Garnham said he screamed, and heard knocking on the office door.
He told the Marist Brothers Nestor told him he ‘‘screamed like a little girl’’.
Mr Garnham believes adults at the school knew he had been abused.
‘‘Who was I going to tell?
‘‘Who was going to believe me, an 11-year-old boy, up against the principal? That was what I was always telling myself until years later when I had to say something.’’
From 1955 to 1964 Nestor was deputy director at St Vincent’s Boys’ Home at Westmead and from 1964 to 1970 he was a teacher in charge of a dormitory at the prestigious Marist school St Joseph’s at Hunters Hill.
In 1993, Nestor pleaded guilty to three charges of indecently assaulting a boy at the home in 1962, and was placed on a good behaviour bond. He was later charged with offences against a group of former boys’ home children, but in 2001 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal granted a permanent stay after evidence about Nestor’s health.
In a statement, the Marist Brothers said Nestor left the order in 1995, was now in his late 80s and in poor health. It received the first complaint about him in 1991.
Mr Garnham has received compensation from the Marist Brothers for the devastating impact of the abuse.
‘‘I put it behind doors in my mind, bolted it, chained it, no-one was ever going to find out about it, and that has a terrible impact on your life,’’ he said.
‘‘It shattered my life.’’
He received a formal apology from a senior member of the order.
‘‘No amount of money could cover the impact of what happened to me but at the end of the day it was more about the apology,’’ Mr Garnham said.
‘‘I held the church in contempt for many years. Speaking out was about them recognising what had happened to me, acknowledging it, and most importantly, showing me that they were different, that the Brothers of today have taken a stance against this.’’
A Marist Brothers spokesman said the order was gratified that Mr Garnham found the settlement process positive and supportive, and the apology genuine.
‘‘We have over many years now worked to ensure that our response in these circumstances is caring, compassionate and provides a pastoral foundation for addressing the failures of the past,’’ the spokesman said.
THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has called for submissions about the risk of child sexual abuse in contemporary primary and secondary schools.
Commission chief executive Philip Reed said about 30 per cent of people who have spoken to the commission were sexually abused as children in a school.
“Non-government schools in particular account for a disproportionately high number of reports made to the Royal Commission.
Of the Royal Commission’s 29 public hearings held to date, eight have focused on abuse in schools,’’ Mr Reed said.
The commission is seeking submissions until August 31 about child protection governance and leadership, effectiveness of teacher training, and regulatory frameworks to protect children.
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