Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]
August 18, 2021
By Tim Fernandez
- The victims of a paedophile priest have detailed the traumatic impact their abuse in the 1980s has had on their lives
- Anthony Caruana was convicted of abusing 12 students at Chevalier College in the NSW Southern Highlands
- Some victims told the court they were called liars when they told their parents about the crimes
The victims of a paedophile priest have told a court they were called liars when they told their parents about being abused by their teacher 30 years ago.
Last month, Anthony Peter William Caruana was convicted of sexually abusing 12 students at a Catholic college for boys in the NSW Southern Highlands in the 1980s.
A District Court jury found the 79-year-old guilty of 26 offences including 22 counts of indecent assault and four counts of sexual intercourse with a pupil.
During the seven-week trial, the court heard Caruana was a teacher at Chevalier College in Burradoo and used his position to commit his crimes.
During a sentencing hearing in Sydney Downing Centre, the court heard victim impact statements that detailed the devastating impact the abuse had on the lives of the victims.
One man was a state ward when he was sent to boarding school at Chevalier College at just 12 years old.
In his statement, he said he was feeling homesick when he arrived on campus and Caruana offered to help him read letters from his foster mother.
“I looked up to Father Caruana but I now know this is how he got me to trust him,” the court heard.
“When the abuse started, I felt very confused and scared.
“I lost my innocence as a scared 12-year-old boy away from home for the first time.”
He lived in a devoutly Catholic household with his foster parents and foster brother who was a priest.
On a school holiday, he decided to tell his foster mother about the abuse.
“My foster mum called me a liar and said that a priest would never do something like that,” he said.
“I felt rejected, lonely and very confused as I thought she would have protected me.
“I was sent back to the school feeling anxious and couldn’t understand why my foster mum didn’t take me out of the school.”
Another man described telling his family about Caruana’s crimes while the priest was at the dinner table with them celebrating his graduation.
“It was so hard to do but then even worse they didn’t believe me,” he said.
“My family abandoned me and supported you. Because of your collar, you were a respected person in my family.”
He said this was the last time he would see his family who kicked him out of home, which set him on a path of self-destruction that would see him end up in jail.
“Where you are now is where you deserve to be, but it seems it was where I always ended up due to my inability to cope with what had happened,” the man said.
The 79-year-old held several positions at Chevalier College from 1982 to 1988 when the abuse took place.
At various times he was dormitory master, coach of the school rugby team, and bandmaster.
“I just wanted to learn music,” said another man who was abused by Caruana after band practice.
“That feeling of how horrified and alone I was after school on those assault days will never leave me.”
The court heard the complainant turned to alcohol in his teenage years to help him cope with the abuse before moving on to other drugs in his 20s and 30s.
The experience left him distrusting of others and unable to form strong connections with friends and develop intimacy with partners.
“My first ‘sexual’ experiences were assaults perpetrated violently,” he said.
“The shame and confusion of that never quite leaves you.”
He claimed it was not until his late 30s that he was able to start controlling his addictions — but by that stage, he had a daughter and had tried to kill himself three times.
“I never wanted to kill all of myself — just the part that housed the trauma of the abuse,” he said.
The court heard from another man who had ambitions of being a successful sportsman before he came into Caruana’s orbit.
“While I was attending Chevalier College, I had aspirations of playing representative rugby league and I was developing my leadership skills and I was on the path to leadership,” he said.
He said he began boarding school with his parents going through a divorce and was introduced to Caruana as a person he could trust.
“I left the college as a broken boy,” he said.
He was one of the victims who came forward to report Caruana’s crimes as a 12-year-old student in the 1980s.
But the legal system did not deliver him justice.
“The bullying I received from the solicitors at the time was horrible,” he said.
“I was bullied and made to feel that what had occurred to me was all made up and my fault.
“I was called a liar.”
The experience also broke his relationship with his father who lost hope after the initial failed attempt to obtain justice through the courts.
“He has carried immense pain and anger at the way I was treated and the way I was let down by the institution that was supposed to protect me, and the legal system that completely failed a 12-year-old boy,” he said.
The court heard he would always live with the burden of what had been done to him and would never have closure.
“I do hope this court case and the fact that justice is being served allows me to find some peace,” he said.
Judge Robyn Tupman told the court that a lot had changed since these complaints were first dealt with in court 30 years ago.
She added that if she were overseeing this committal hearing she would not have allowed the barrister to engage in that type of questioning.
“I am not surprised that the complainant thought that at the time it was a bit rough,” she said.
“Whether it be wrong, and clearly it was wrong the way in which committal proceedings of this type were run and were permitted to be run, it is very different these days.
“I think I made the point during the trial that if I had been presiding over that I would not have permitted a number of those questions or committed them in the way they would have been asked.”
The sentencing hearing will continue in September.