Story transcripts

Breaking the Silence

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reporter: Michael Usher
Producer: Danny Keens

We thought it was a haven, a model school where disadvantaged young boys and Catholic brothers all lived together as one big happy family.

You may remember it from the famous lottery that raised millions in its name. But Boys Town, in Beaudesert Queensland, wasn't the Godly place we all believed it to be.

For many of the boys there, it was a pure hell. Those kids are grown men now.

On Sunday night, after a lifetime of shame, they've found the courage to talk about what happened to them at Boys Town.

Their stories are some of the hardest we've ever heard. But for the first time, the authorities are listening. And court action has now begun in what's becoming one of the largest cases of its type in Australian legal history.

Story contacts:

Boys Town

If you are a former resident of Boys Town, Beaudesert, and were subject to, or witnessed, physical or sexual abuse please contact the Queensland Police.

What are the effects of this? It puts the missing pieces together and helps gather more evidence. It will also help with the likelihood of criminal convictions because you are turning one voice into many.

Even if you never suffered any abuse, but witnessed something, you should make contact.

Queensland Police

Should any person wish to make a criminal complaint about historical sexual offences (including institutionalised harm or paedophilia offences), you can report the matter to your local police or to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Alternatively the Queensland Police Service understands some survivors of sexual assault may not wish to pursue a criminal complaint. The Adult Sexual Assault program provides survivors alternative options to making a formal complaint.

This process can be useful in helping survivors through the healing process and can assist police in investigating and preventing offences of a similar nature. Participants can remain anonymous if they wish.

The QPS also encourage survivors of sexual assault to seek counselling or other professional services to assist them in the coming to terms and recovering from their abuse.

For more information on the Adult Sexual Assault program visit

Legal Action
Phone: 02 6247 3477

Support Group
0481 203 996

If you are in crisis or need to speak with a counsellor call Bravehearts on 1800 BRAVE1 (1800 272 831). Bravehearts provides healing and support, and aims to prevent childhood sexual assault. For more information visit

Or for 24 hour support call Lifeline on 13 11 44.

Full transcript:

STORY - MICHAEL USHER: This is the hardest journey to make for these men. They're returning to a place that's haunted them their entire adult lives. A place filled with painful memories, that very quickly flood back. This is BoysTown, or what is left of it. Just an hour out of Brisbane, it was both home and school for the boys who had nowhere else to go. They were the vulnerable ones who had been abandoned, orphaned or just got into a bit too much trouble. Here though, they were promised a loving, caring environment and hope for the future. But this place hid terrible secrets, and now, for the first time, you will hear what really went on behind closed doors at BoysTown.

MAL: I don't know how to do this

MICHAEL USHER: It's the hardest of stories to tell.

MAL: Yeah, I'm sorry guys.


MEGAN: Just some of the stories that I have already heard - it is just sick. It does, it makes you sick in the stomach.

TERRY: It's not easy. It is only the tip of the iceberg.

MICHAEL USHER: Tonight, we'll uncover an abuse scandal that darkens a respected catholic institution. How many of you were sexually abused at BoysTown?

FORUM: Yeah, I'm still too - I'm still embarrassed.

JASON: It is going to be one of the largest child abuse cases in Australia's history.

MICHAEL USHER: We'll reveal that landmark Supreme Court action has begun against the church. Brother Paul, Michael Usher from 60 Minutes. And we'll seek answers from the De La Salle Brothers who ran BoysTown. Why were there so many boys under your care, whilst you were in charge of BoysTown, who were abused, assaulted, in some cases raped?

PAUL: I'm not aware of that.

MICHAEL USHER: Almost everyone's heard of the famous BoysTown lotteries, which helped fund a range of welfare and charity services around Australia. It also helped fund this - a bush farm in Beaudesert, Queensland. It closed in 2001, but for four decades this BoysTown facility had a reputation for turning troubled young lives around. We featured BoysTown on 60 Minutes in 1984, and spoke with then director Brother Paul Smith.

PAUL: I think it is terribly important to be loved, and I think the boys who leave BoysTown can honestly say that at least they know they are loveable and that's important.

MICHAEL USHER: But at this very same time it is now alleged some of the worst abuse was being committed by some of the Catholic De La Salle Brothers.

MICHAEL USHER: Did you talk amongst each other? Did the boys talk about what was going on?

MAL: Not really no. You were ashamed.

MICHAEL USHER: Mal Burrows was 12 years old when he was placed at BoysTown in 1981, after his mother was murdered by his father.

MICHAEL USHER: This is your file from BoysTown.

MAL: Yep.

MICHAEL USHER: The 15th of March 1983 - it's a BoysTown hospital referral. You were - you were sent to hospital on this occasion?

MAL: Yeah.

MICHAEL USHER: And it mentions stomach pains. What happened there?

MAL: I was raped. But it just came out as stomach pains, you know?

MICHAEL USHER: The only thing they gave you was Mylanta.

MAL: You know, I'd been raped.

MICHAEL USHER: And you couldn't tell them that?

MAL: No.

MICHAEL USHER: Not the nurses, not the doctors? Why not?

MAL: Cause so many other boys had been sent there too, and nothing had ever been done. Who was going to listen to us? How can you talk about it? Who's going to listen to you?

MICHAEL USHER: How many times do you think that you were raped?

MAL: I don't know. To be honest, I don't know.

MICHAEL USHER: Too many to count?

MAL: Too many to remember.


MAL: I haven't cried in a long time.

JASON: I haven't heard worse than what I have heard that happened to these small boys at BoysTown in Beaudesert.

MICHAEL USHER: Solicitor and former detective, Jason Parkinson, is a veteran litigator in clergy abuse cases. He is now representing 35 former BoysTown students, and has begun legal action in Queensland's Supreme Court.

JASON: I haven't heard the degree of physical abuse, together with some of the most outrageous sexual abuse I've heard, in the one institution before.

MICHAEL USHER: We are talking the worst sort of abuse, there's no doubt about that?

JASON: Things happened to some of those 12-year-old boys that wouldn't have happened to prisoners of war.

FORUM: I copped a strap in the mouth, just as a back hander from him. Split my lip, I had stitches.

FORUM: The Brothers beat us senseless. I've still got a broken nose.

MICHAEL USHER: After years of silence, these men are now going public.

FORUM: The silence ends now with this, you know, and we need everybody to know what happened.

MICHAEL USHER: All want justice. Some want the Brothers brought before the courts - and dozens have joined the civil claim that names nine De La Salle Brothers, including Cormac and Finbar, plus seven others that we can't name for legal reasons. How many of you were sexually abused at BoysTown? How tough is that to admit?

FORUM: Very, very hard. I'm a father. It's just very, very, hard. Very, very hard. I don't know how to put it in words. I hope we're not judged by our peers, our work colleagues, and ridiculed, because we've been living with it.

FORUM: I tried to commit suicide by covering my whole body in petrol and lighting myself alight. The only help I got was the shit kicked out of me and thrown into the cell for a couple of days.

FORUM: They were bringing out things like cattle prods and I got zapped three or four times and got thrown in the jail cell - and I was in there for two days straight, no water, naked.

FORUM: We're going to expose the truth. And we're going to do that together in unity.

MICHAEL USHER: Terry McDaniel was rejected by his mother when he was a young boy - placed in foster care, then sent to BoysTown aged 12. Today he has a loving wife and a stable family of his own, but it's only in the past few months that he has revealed to them what happened at BoysTown. How old are you there?

TERRY: I think I was 14 - 14 there.

MICHAEL USHER: If you could talk to that 14-year-old boy now, what would you say?

TERRY: Hang in there mate, hang in there.

MICHAEL USHER: By then had you been abused?

TERRY: Yes. You had a responsibility to take care of us ok? I was under a Care and Protection Order, ok? That's what I was under. You failed that.

MICHAEL USHER: Brother Paul Smith was the public face of BoysTown. He was the director of the home at Beaudesert from 1982 to 1993, when Terry was a student there.

PAUL: We try and introduce the boys to a stability, a type of sharing.

MICHAEL USHER: 28 years ago, when we caught up with him, Brother Paul was like a father to these boys. Now men, they want explanations for what the outside world couldn't see.

TERRY: What about all the strip-searches?

PAUL: Totally untrue. No memory of that.

TERRY: No memory of that? Yeah, that's convenient isn't it.

MICHAEL USHER: How many of you were strip-searched when you were at BoysTown?

FORUM: All of us would have been. Repeatedly.

PAUL: That's untrue.

MICHAEL USHER: Are they making it up?

TERRY: No, that is true.

PAUL: Or they have false memory.

TERRY: A false memory? False memory, no.

MICHAEL USHER: Terry says there is nothing false or fabricated about his memory of the Brother who molested him.

TERRY: He took me to one of the rooms where the Brothers' quarters was, where the Brothers slept, and made me stand in front of him and asked me to drop my dacks. I didn't argue with him, I dropped my dacks and um, yeah, he had a pretty good feel.

MICHAEL USHER: Did he say anything?

TERRY: He just said that - as he was feeling around - is it okay, is everything - just kept asking me, is it ok? What was I feeling?

MICHAEL USHER: Megan, how do you feel when you hear your husband telling that story?

MEGAN: Sad, very sad.

MICHAEL USHER: If I can ask you, is that the worst of it?

TERRY: No, there's more.

MICHAEL USHER: That happened to you?

TERRY: There's a lot more. Yeah.

MICHAEL USHER: Brother Paul Smith today is a highly commended charity and welfare figure in the De La Salle order and won't hear of these allegations. So let me be really clear about this, because there will be investigations - you are saying what Terry is lying, he's making it up?

PAUL: I'm saying that he has a false memory.

TERRY: I haven't got a false memory!

MICHAEL USHER: So he is making it up?

PAUL: No, no it's a false memory. I'm thinking his life may have been astray, he may be looking for excuses. Not him, but people with similar circumstances, they do this. Anything that came up by way of physical or sexual abuse was reported. Any sexual abuse that came up was reported to the police.

MICHAEL USHER: That's true and at least two Brothers from BoysTown were convicted of child sex offences - but it is the dozens of new allegations, which went unreported, that are the subject of these new claims.

TERRY: What, you are saying that you haven't, that you can't remember now?

PAUL: Can you put him back on a leash or something?

MICHAEL USHER: The current head of the Australian De La Salle order is Brother Ambrose Payne - we played him just some of these men's stories.

MICHAEL USHER: It's not easy to watch.

AMBROSE: Not at all.

MICHAEL USHER: When you hear his story, how do you feel about what he's recounting?

AMBROSE: Ah, probably the most expressive word is gutted. The matter is a very serious matter and there's no way in the world that we will dodge it.

MICHAEL USHER: Why were boys strip-searched at BoysTown?

AMBROSE: I have no knowledge of whether boys were strip-searched at BoysTown.

MICHAEL USHER: Every single one of them says they were strip-searched, and strip-searched regularly.

AMBROSE: That's appalling.

MICHAEL USHER: This wasn't a prison.

AMBROSE: That's true.

MICHAEL USHER: This was a care facility for young boys.

AMBROSE: It was a care facility, yes. What else can I say except agree with you.

MICHAEL USHER: Does that action, that behaviour at BoysTown, surprise you in any way?

AMBROSE: It surprises me, and appals me, and I'm absolutely devastated really.

MICHAEL USHER: But none of this should be a surprise, because we have now learned that BoysTown was the subject of a three-year secret police investigation known as "Operation Sari" which commenced in 1999. It resulted in two staff being charged with 48 serious sexual offences - but the case collapsed when former students withdrew complaints. Exactly why remains a mystery. Why has it taken so long for them to tell their story?

JASON: Child abuse is almost the perfect crime. They reach an age in their forties - late forties, early fifties - when from that time they can look back on their life and say, "Well, there's nothing else that's occurred and I'm now going to tell my story."

MICHAEL USHER: And they're beginning what will be a testing legal challenge - the word of broken men against the might of the Catholic Church.

MAL: It should never have happened. I never want any child to ever go through what I went through, never, never.

MICHAEL USHER: No matter how painful and confronting, they have already taken the hardest step - and that's breaking their silence.

TERRY: I would like to see them - if there was enough evidence, with enough boys - to come forward to have charges laid, and actually stand in front of a magistrate and let a magistrate decide their fate.

MICHAEL USHER: What would that help you with, do you think?

TERRY: For the first time I was able to tell my story, and someone believed me.

MICHAEL USHER: And we can now report that as a result of this story, and the number of men coming forward, Queensland police have now launched a fresh investigation into the BoysTown home at Beaudesert.

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