On the 20th of January – after attempting unsuccessfully for months to get my cancer-stricken and dying mum the refund of her school fees that the Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall had so magnanimously publicly proclaimed his institution would pay to parents of abuse victims at St Paul’s, a promise that he promptly reneged on the moment that that the TV cameras were switched off – I telephoned knowmore, desperately seeking some urgent legal advice and assistance to find out what the hell I could do to spare Mum the final indignity of dying without the church acknowledging the terrible deeds that had been done to her first born and much-loved son.
At the time that I made the call to knowmore I was frantic. My wife was desperately ill, I was pushing against the tide trying to manage my own medical condition, my Dad was in hospital after a heart attack a few days before that almost did him in and was preparing to undergo a double bypass, and my cancer-weakened Mum was on the point of collapse.
In fact scarcely an hour after I made the call to knowmore, Mum did indeed collapse, and in a panic I had to dial triple O to summon an ambulance to race her to hospital, a task that mug punters like me try assiduously to avoid. She was in such bad shape that she remained there for a fortnight in a life-threatening condition, and didn’t come home until days after Dad was discharged.
At the time I made the call to knowmore – and still to this day – my single desire was for Mum to gain some cold comfort from an admission by her church that they had f*cked up, and an acknowledgement by way of refund of her hard-earned school fees that it wasn’t she or I who were to blame for my slide from scholarship student to slacker, but rather the fault of the school in which she had rested her hopes and dreams.
This was no joke. In fact it was damn near the most important thing in my life. Before Mum took her last breath upon this earth, and her ashes were interred alongside three generations of her ancestors in the columbarium of St Augustine’s church at Hamilton – just down the hill from the mansion where for more than a century Brisbane’s usually imported Archbishops lived in lavish luxury – she and I wanted an acknowledgement of the wrongs that had so surreptitiously been inflicted by ill- intentioned sadists with only sex on their mind.
All I was asking for was a simple gesture to help wash away the hurt and the pain inflicted on my family over the decades since my abuse, and an absolution of the blame that, lost and bewildered, I wrongly inflicted upon my parents for sending me to the the school that destroyed my innocence, and they unknowingly wrought upon me for smashing their hopes and dreams into a million pieces.
So in desperation and despair I telephoned knowmore, and my call was answered by someone that I presume was an admin officer, who put me through to a lawyer named Leanne Scoines, a lawyer employed at who knows what inflated salary by the then seemingly selfless organisation that could salve my despair, and become the answer to my long-ignored prayers.
Within minutes I had detailed the background of my abuse and associated matters to Ms Scoines, and told her all about my present personal predicament, and after baring my soul in this manner I pleaded for urgent assistance.
And the knowmore lawyer – who has no mandate for or interest in taking on cases for victims – told me that she had just the man I needed, a bloke named Steve Herd from a firm named Murphy Schmidt, and that she would have Mr Herd call me post-haste to arrange a meeting so he could get moving on the issue of my Mum’s fee refund, pronto.
January the 20th this was.
I waited and I waited, not wanting to stretch the envelope and appear to be a pain in the arse, but didn’t hear a bloody thing for a fortnight, so then I started chasing…and chasing ….and chasing….and heard nothing from Mr Herd, but instead only the sound of silence.
Finally I received a return phone call from Ms Scoines, and after complaining vociferously about the most unwelcome delay I received one not long after from Mr Herd himself, and an appointment was set for the 12th of March., more than 3 weeks after I requested urgent assistance and was assured that it would be delivered.
Five million dollars a year of taxpayers money and I had to wait nearly a month for help, and even then only after I had chased like f*ck and chased some more. As frustrating as that was though, it is not the main issue. In fact it isn’t even half the issue.
Murphy Schmidt, the firm that the supposedly trauma aware government funded mob had referred me to, was and is owned and run by two scions of the Catholic Church,, menage a deux who had both held senior positions witinh the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane at the exact same time that grotesque abuses were being perpetrated on children by monsters from the deep, crimes that were then covered up by the very institutions that the law firm partners sought to defend and protect.
A good mate of my mortal enemy the Branch Stacker’s dad.
Patricia Schmidt, nee Wagner, sister of the brothers of Grantham quarry fame. The blokes who had slagged my much loved mate John Tyson – a man who lost his wife and youngest child in the 2011 floods – all over town.
This pair of proprietors were and remain representatives of the church that wrought absolute havoc upon the lives of young men and women entrusted into their care.And the legal service that purports to protect child abuse victims sent me straight into the spider’s tangled and wicked web.
I don’t need to go into the detail of the Catholic Church’s abuse, for each of us know it all too well, and we all have seen and read of the sneering denials of the Cardinal Sinner George Pell, the craven coward who hides behind the Vatican walls and refuses to return to the sunburnt land of his birth, for the rightful fear that he will be cast into chains and flung like a bandit behind bars, a fate most deserving for a monster like he.
Both Murphy and Schmidt are associates and/or friends of Pell.
Murphy sat on the Catholic Finance Committee throughout the ‘Toward Healing’ era, when Pell and his supporters battered child sex abuse victims into sullen submission, and forced them to accept mere pittances for the pain they had endured after Pell made it perfectly clear that he would fight them to the death in courts across the land should, like Oliver Twist, they dare to ask for more.
Schmidt was a member of the Catholic Education Council at the time the church afforded a convicted pedophile a hidden room with a view across to the pool where semi-naked teenage schoolboys backstrokied at the Marist run college next door.
The bastard McKeirnan who was sitting on his balcony wanking as watched the smooth shaved swimmers slide through the water was a fiend who abused two of my mates who once served as altar boys at his Sunday mass. The libacious lecherous freak ruined their f*cking lives.
And here I was being sent by the by the outfit funded by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse into the arms of the friends of these abusers, referred for representation to a firm whose founding partners and ongoing owners were complicit in concealing the crimes of these pedophiles and more.
It was a Faustian nightmare.
Yet I was but a poor, sick, desperate victim whose mother was dying, and I had only discovered these dread-inducing facts minutes before, as I was on the all stops train from Geebung to the City on my way to meet with lawyers from the fug-bound firm to which I had by knowmore been referred, with no alternative option, and my single-mother of three sister had taken an unpaid day off work in order to allow me to attend the meet,
What the hell was I supposed to do?
Nothing. I had been afforded no other choice,
And so I walked into Murphy Schmidt’s lavishy renovated three story heritage building in Mary Street, replete with expensive marble statues, and on the plush leather couches I sat nervously waiting for the better part of twenty minutes before the maestro Steve Herd appeared, and directed me to an equally luxurious meeting room down a flight of expansive stairs.
Most sportsfans who read this site know the story of my abuse.
In early October last year I wrote a piece that was published on this site, in which I disclosed the horrific abuse that I had suffered at the hands of a man named Gregory Stephen Masters, who at the time I told my sordidly true tale was employed at Brisbane Boys Grammar School as Master in charge of boys of the same age I was when he drugged, drunked and defiled me.
Masters became aware of my disclosures two days after I published them, and 12 hours later hung himself from his Spring Hill balcony in preference to enduring the ignominy of a trial, conviction and inevitable jailing for his deeply perverted crimes.
Steve Herd from Murphy Schmidt certainly knew the events that had unfolded, even if he hadn’t read about it in the newspapers or seen it on the TV – and it was splashed all over both – because I had told Leanne Scoines from knowmore everything that had happened, and with my permission she had forwarded the whole box and dice onto Herd.
In trepidation tinged with desperation I descended the marble stairs of the unnecessarily swish law firm office with Mr Herd, and when we reached the meeting room that was once a dank basement cellar the preferred knowmore panel member introduced me to a young lawyer whose name I shall withhold, for what transpired next was not the young fella’s fault. Like the prison guards at Auschwitz he was only doing his job, blindingly – to give him the benefit of a somewhat huge doubt – simply doing the bidding of his bullish boss.
‘Hi Archie’ said Steve Herd. ‘This is xxxxx’ .
“Xxxxx went to Grammar, and was a student of Greg Masters. I hope you don’t mind’.
What the f*ck could I say or do?
Burst into tears, lie down on the floor and sob convulsively as I wanted to? Or smile falsely and say hey Steve, you’ve brought a bloke who spent 5 years with my abuser to our meeting, gee mate that’s just fine and dandy and let’s get it on?
Like every child sex abuse victim I’ve been pretending for years. So I smiled and said ‘Sure Steve, it’s ok, there’s nothing I’d like better than baring my soul to a bloke taught by mu tormentor’, and proceeded to cover up my distress with laughter and feigned jollity, whilst inside I was dying a thousand deaths.
After conferencing with the pair of lawyers for 2 hours, during which I was promised the world – promises that would of course never be delivered, as oaths of fealty to the abused never are – I walked out of the door of Murphy Schmidt and stepped on to the Mary Street sidewalk, turned left and began to walk toward Central Station, but by the time I had reached the corner of Edward Street I found myself paralytic with grief, drenched and drowning in tears.
Ordinary folk blissfully ignorant of the cause of my despair, merely waiting for the street lights to change, began to stare, and embarrassed and ashamed I suddenly sprinted headlong across the road, ignoring the red lights and the oncoming traffic and the risk that I may be run over and die. I simply didn’t care. I just ran and ran, for what seemed like miles, unable to breath, but it was in reality only seconds, and soon I found myself lying on the lush grass of the grounds of St Stephen’s Cathedral, where I turned my face to the turf and sobbed convulsively until I simply couldn’t sob any more. And then I sobbed some more, so hard that I thought my tears could never stop.
My phone rang, again and again, but I had neither the strength nor the will to answer it despite knowing that it was my beloved wife calling, and knowing that she and my daughters would be frantic with worry and and fear and care. I was too far gone, lost and alone and in the world of pain that only those whose lives have been stolen away from them as children can ever truly know, and so I ignored the incessant ringing of the phone, pretending that it was simply the echo of a peaceful paradise that I could never know.
It grew dark, and it became cold, and periodically people – Good Samaritans one and all – passed by, and stopped and asked me if I was okay.
‘Yeah’ I told them, ‘I’ve just had too much to drink’.
I hadn’t downed a drop.
Sometime during the cold dark darkness I felt a warm hand on my shoulder, and heard a voice that had filled my heart with joy and saved my sanity so many times before. I don’t know what the time was, and I don’t know how she found me, and have never asked, but it was my soul mate, the woman who because I hate myself I have tried to push away for 20 years, the only adult who has ever truly loved me, without codicil or condition.
She stretched out her hand and whispered softly ‘stand up, come home’.
Warm in her arms, I did.
And thus here I am.
This is my small story, and now perhaps you knowmore about the unbearable sadness that afflicts a once young sexual abuse victim’s senses and invades their soul.
Perhaps one day the people sent to protect us may too.