The Weekend Australian Magazine
November 22, 2019
By Greg Bearup
A long-lost school friend calls out of the blue with a shocking revelation. Has nothing changed since the royal commission?
I’ve just come from a paintball combat zone with a dozen overhyped 13-year-olds when my phone rings. It’s Sunday, July 14, and on the line is a bloke called Mick McCudden, an old classmate who disappeared from school in 1985. “Greg, I need you to tell my story. I don’t want these bastards to get away with what they’ve done to me.”
I know the broad outline of Mick’s story. I’ve followed what happened to him, and others. Mick was sexually abused by a teacher at the boarding school in northern NSW we both attended and I know his life has been a mess ever since. The teacher pleaded guilty to crimes against Mick and a dozen other boys; the saga has been going on so long that this teacher has since died in jail. I know the order that ran the school, the Marist Fathers, has dragged its feet over compensating Mick for the damage he has suffered.
He has come to me because I am a journalist – but as I stand on the outskirts of the paintball field, I’m thinking: “I don’t even know if I can get his story into the paper. Will my editor even be interested? What’s new? What’s different? We’ve heard this all before.” I promise to get back to him during the week. What I don’t know is just how close to the edge Mick was when he made that call.
The next night my phone buzzes with this text message: “Gidday Greg mate. I’m over all this bullshit with the Marists/Catholic church. No one is prepared to take ownership of what’s happened to me… I plan to kill myself and join…” He mentions two of at least 10 boys who attended our school in the 1980s who killed themselves not long after leaving. “You probably won’t hear from me again, I’m sorry.”
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