Sep 03

Just recently I re-connected with a fellow student from school.  We both grew up in Hamilton and went to St. Mary’s and Monivae College – I have no idea what happened to her after that.

The re-connection came about on Facebook when I found myself in a group for former students from Year 12.  I struggle to remember my school days and I struggle to remember most of my fellow students.  School for me was not a great experience.

As I sit here on a Saturday morning I’m reading this great article by Lane Sainty.  She is reporting on how difficult it is for non-straight kids in regional Australia to find support in their schools with all the bad press around the Safe School’s program.  In Queensland and NSW real queer kids are struggling with their sexual or gender identity.  The attacks on the program by the likes of the Australian Christian Lobby have made parents weary of the program.  So much so that those that most need the support are just not getting it.

One student who left the school was so distressed by the negative media that his mother was also referred to a psychologist as she struggled to support him.

“He believes the things he hears – he says ‘I’m a freak, nobody wants me’,” the student welfare worker said.

“He’s attempted suicide several times in the past few years.”

As I read this I recall my time in a small country town in the 1970’s.  I was at school and fighting with my re-connected friend.  I don’t recall the details, but the words she used I haven’t forgotten.


St. Mary’s school classroom corridor.

She was standing in the class room door – I was in the corridor.  The door was wooden with a frosted glass insert at head height.  The nun who was the principal used to knock on the glass with her ring.  I assume it was the wedding ring that meant she was married to Jesus.  He had quite the harem.

As my friend stood in the class room, she was trying to keep the door closed to prevent me from getting into the room.  I was crying and quite angry.  I was lashing out at her, hitting her arm I think, because she delivered this line, “Don’t let him in he’s a poof and we don’t want him in here”.

Memory is a tricky thing.  At this point I was stopped by one of the women teachers, that’d be Mrs Phillips or Mrs Peters and I got into trouble for hitting a girl.

No amount of my protesting would cut it.  It didn’t matter that I’d just been called a poof and that was why I was upset.  Nobody wanted to address why I found that upsetting, and indeed I had been hitting a girl.  That’s what the teacher saw.  I was then the bully.

There’s a lived lifetime between then and now.  I’m not looking for an apology, that isn’t needed.  We were both young and didn’t have a much of a clue about the words.  I don’t hold her responsible now, that’d be a crazy thing to do.  We’re both 50 something adults, that would be a long time to hold a grudge!  While at the time it was quite homophobic and I was quite violent, we’ve both changed.

You know what we both needed in the 1970’s?  A program that would help us understand each other.  I lashed out and caused physical harm to a girl.  She lashed out and caused emotional distress to a boy.  Very likely we both felt vindicated for our actions.   We needed the Safe Schools program.  Even in Grade 5 I knew I liked boys.  I knew I was different.  I don’t know whether she somehow knew or was simply calling me names.

After all these years, with all that we know as a society, we still have people trying to deny the reality of growing up.  Putting obstacles in the way to prevent kids just like me from getting help.

How different my life would have been if I didn’t have to contend with the negative images around my sexuality.  So much so that when I finally got to Form 6, Year 12, all I wanted to do was get out of there.  I was isolated and in despair because I carried with me the baggage from Grade 5 of lashing out and being identified as a poofter.

Those against the Safe Schools program think that the program will somehow be harmful to the kids.  It brings the issue of sexuality up before the child can cope with it.  That’s just a load of rubbish.  What I needed was a society that didn’t care if I was gay.  I had no positive words to describe the way I was.  I was surrounded by a world that used derogatory words to describe my sexuality.  I didn’t know what sex was, I had no idea about the mechanics of attraction, what I did know was that I wasn’t like the other boys and my fellow students knew this too.  I don’t think 40 years makes any difference to those now growing up.

At least now we can and do let our young people know that it’s ok to be yourself and to protect them from the phobias that other people have.

A footnote:  I did speak with my friend about this blog.  We agree that we need Safe Schools.  It strikes me that we just did what Safe School needs to do, a free exchange of thoughts communicated with humility and respect, we both came away with a better understanding of each other.

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Dec 06

Cadets was compulsory in Form 3 and 4 at Monivae College.

I hated cadets.

The first ever Cadet Day in Form 3 was dreadful, I was in tears, for whatever reason going on in my young mind, I was dead-set against being a part of cadets.

I got to school, dreading it.  I went to the public phone box on the school grounds, a phone in a small room and called Mum, crying on the phone, telling her that I really didn’t want to do this.

In my cadet uniform Form 3 - 1978

In my cadet uniform Form 3 – 1978

While Mum was trying to reassure me that everything would be OK, she did say she’d ring the school and speak with them and tell them I didn’t want to participate.

I returned to the class room and the guy in charge, Mr. Walsh came and saw me.  He asked why I didn’t want to join in.  He told me all my friends would be in the cadets and I’d be the odd one out.  I thought what a cheap shot that was, I’m a teenager – I get peer pressure and I hate my class mates.

I was made to sit down and write an essay to explain my reasoning.

I don’t think I was able to properly articulate my reasons, the first and possibly only line on the page was “I’m against war”.  That was it.

I still don’t really know why I didn’t want to be a part of it.  Perhaps I saw it as too military for my liking.

In any case I succumbed, and joined.  I probably had little choice.  I seem to recall a sort of threat, from the principal, that it was part of the school curriculum and it wasn’t optional.  Which to me meant if you want to be at Monivae, you have to be in cadets.

So I dressed up as expected, in my greens, and pretended to be a solider.

I had Scouts, and didn’t see the need for Cadets, which just seemed to be a scaled down version with none of the same systems.  I really resented guys my age, or a couple of years older yelling at me.  And that’s what it amounted too.  It may have given leadership skills to those picked to be in positions of power, but the reality was that they weren’t really getting leadership skills, they were just feeding their desire to be the boss of me.  They got to yell and be vindicated for their bullying behaviour, because this was pretend Army and that’s how it worked.

The other thing that I really hated was having to give up my lunch breaks to go and practice marching.  Seriously, you want me to march up and down the basketball courts for what reason?  Apart from trying to train me up in fancy synchronised wafting about what did you hope to achieve?

So, I’d wag Cadet days, pretend to be sick, lie to Mum, tell her it wasn’t on.  Of course, I’d have to go sometimes and I hated it.

Every year we had the big Cadet Presentation Day when some big wig from the Army would arrive and we’d do this strange ceremony of passing over the colours.  We would march out onto the oval (hence the reason for lunch time marching) and spend some hours standing there while some wanker walked up and down reviewing a bunch of boys in greens. Complete waste of my Sunday.

I wagged that too.  Mr. Walsh told me that I needed a letter from my mum as to why I didn’t attend.  I couldn’t get one, because I was too scared to ask Mum.  It would reveal the lie I had told.  So instead of having to front that lie, I told Mr. Walsh the truth – that I didn’t want to go, so I didn’t.  He looked me up and down, probably because he couldn’t work out why I wasn’t scared of him, clearly he didn’t know my mother very well.  He smiled, cocked his head on one side and through his good eye, make contact, smiled and told me “You’re strange, Storer”.

That was that, I received no punishment at all for it.

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Oct 08

It’s Mental Health week this week.  It seems an opportune moment to press the Publish button on this blog that’s been waiting for a while.

This is from my hand written diary from 1982 and documents the trial I underwent in making the decision to leave school.  Malcolm Fraser was the Prime Minister and What About Me by Moving Pictures was at the top of the charts.

Year 11The entry is written in 1982 about events a year earlier.  I was 17 in 1981, barely coping with my sexuality that I was trying so hard to repress, I don’t mention it directly, but I can see it’s impact in my own words.  I wasn’t letting anyone in to see the real me.  My close friends had left school at the end of Year 10 and Year 11, I was isolated, a few of the students in Year 12 had grown up with me and we’d been through primary and secondary school together – they were my enemies!

It’s clear to me, looking back, that I was struggling with my life, my religion and my sexuality.  I wasn’t in a good place.  The isolation was horrendous and I couldn’t see a way out.  What I didn’t see or understand until some 12 months later is that people really did care, they wanted to help me.  It took an enormous amount of courage for me to reach out and ask for help.

My life did get better.  I have not regretted the decisions I made back then, I’m glad that I went on to bigger and better things.  The adults in my life did want to help me out, they did see my struggles and tried to get me to open up, the real blockage for me was my sexuality.  This internal battle is why I want the world to see the damage that is caused when homophobia isn’t stopped and challenged.  The anguish I went through should not have happened.  It’s hard enough growing up without having an unmentionable and important part of your life that you feel needs to be hidden.

Here’s the entry, I’ve fixed the spelling (apparently I though my peers where piers and I still can’t spell unfortantely without a spell checker) but not changed the wording.

12 Jan 1982

Today I seem to have quite a few entries in the diary – perhaps because I have been neglecting writing things in it.  I think the main reason for this is trying to get motivated.  This attitude seems to be one that is common amongst my peers.  This is I feel is one reason why I failed at having a go at Year 12.  Yet, I, at the moment, don’t regret it.  I often think that had I become motivated in the early stages of ’81 I might have done a lot better than I did, never the less I didn’t, so I have no one else to blame but myself.  My only hope (in fact one of my many hopes) is that I never live to regret my actions.  At the moment this seems unlikely.  As I can’t see into the future it is a hard thing to say it won’t have some repercussions in later life.

School seemed a place that I just didn’t fit.  None of my peers particularly liked me and often was called a poof, suck and many other things.  Such name calling never seemed right to me and I assumed that such things would fizzle out as we (me and my peers) got older and more mature, I think I was kidding myself.1  The name calling continued, perhaps not as much, but it certainly didn’t stop.  I returned to school in Feb. 81 feeling perhaps just a little frightened, like a child and his first day at school, I think I was more frightened of attempting H.S.C., and of course the reaction of my peers2 who I thought might have grown up.  They had a bit, at least the name calling had perhaps stopped a bit.  But NO-ONE bothered to talk to me, unless I spoke to them first, even then a conversation was brief and abrupt.  Then again I didn’t really try to become overly involved with my peers. (As you can see there seems to be contradictions in this entry.  Yet it really was like this – Here are even more contradictions).  But I did try very hard to become a bit more involved in school activities.  I was a quiet sort of force behind the Social Services, in starting that.  I was involved in the school newspaper “The Dolphin” in which I wrote some news and so on.  Nevertheless this didn’t seem to me to be enough to keep me interested in the academic side of school.

The Year 12 retreat3 proved to be a very interesting one.4  I stopped and reflected on my life and what I was doing.5  I think that perhaps I then made a decision to leave school.  The next thing to do was to get enough courage to make a move as there was so much to consider before I made such a decision.  Meanwhile things at school were still pretty useless.  I had enrolled in correspondence school to do music, a subject I enjoyed and one that I looked forward to.  Unfortunately, someone, somewhere, along the line ballsed the whole thing up.  So when my papers did come through I was about five weeks behind.  Trying desperately to catch up, my other school work seemed to be falling behind, as I was more interested in Music.  Finally the pressures of school caught up with me, and depression soon came.  I couldn’t keep up with my fellow students, as I became more and more depressed I began to think about leaving school, a thought which had been on the back of my mind since the start of the year.  I started to miss morning classes because I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I was frightened, (then again I really didn’t try to make an effort) frightened of school because I was behind, frightened of my peers for their harassment.6  I really did become more and more depressed, and I believe that I was on the verge of suicide, something that nobody else could even see, I myself couldn’t see what was happening, and I did want so much to reach out and talk to someone, but the courage to do so was never there so I just closed myself off…. to think.

I lay awake many nights just thinking about what I was going to do, and then finally I set a date to leave school.7  Friday April 3rd 1981 – I wrote in my pocket diary – “THE END – ON THIS DAY I HOPE TO LEAVE SCHOOL FOREVER”

I have no idea when I set that date, but I did, and I missed it.  It was another week before I left school.  Why?  Perhaps I, again, didn’t have the courage, perhaps I wanted another chance, perhaps I was confused about what I wanted or perhaps I don’t know.  Nevertheless I did try and hack it for another week but to no avail, so on Friday April tenth 1981 (exactly seven days after) I went to school to say to the Studies Master “I no longer wish to continue my education” (That’s a quote!)  So Mr. Shaw (my Studies Master) talked to me about it, and finally agreed that he believed I was doing the best thing, which made me feel a whole lot better.  I then realised that there really are people who care, and people who are willing to help.  The trouble was to find the right person.  Mr. Shaw helped me a lot that day.8  He rang the Commonwealth Employment Service and made an appointment for me for two o’clock in the afternoon.  So that was it, after twelve or thirteen years of school I was finished.

I cried as I rode my bike out of the gates of Monivae College, knowing that something that had been a big part of my life for six years was now finished.  Perhaps I cried because I again was frightened of being in the BIG WORLD by myself, perhaps I cried because I was ashamed of myself for being gutless and feeling useless that I couldn’t succeed in life because I was no good at school.  I was also very happy.9

I went home and told the folks that I did have an appointment at the C.E.S. at two, so they helped me prepare.10

So at about five to two I rolled up outside, stood for a minute before walking in.  I asked for the right man, only to discover that no one at all knew about my appointment.  But all were pleasant, and I filled out the right forms applying for the dole, and registering myself us unemployed.

After a discussion the nice young (married) lady suggested that I approach Mr. McNaughton and enquire about a job there as I already had a part-time job there.11  I told Mr. Mac. that I had left school and asked him if he was willing to employ me.  He said he would have to think about it, and told me to come back on Tuesday 14th April 1981 – So I did.

At eleven o’clock I showed up, and Mr. Mac. said that he was willing to employ me but only under the following hours.  Monday to Thursday 12.00 noon till 5.30 p.m.  Fridays 10-12, 1-5, 6-8 (in winter 12-5, 6-9) Saturday’s 5.30 – 8.00, 9-12 noon.

I agreed to these hours, and although I wasn’t crash hot on them, thought it was better than going on the dole.

So on Tuesday 21st of April 1981 I started working at P.R. & L.A. McNaughtons Authorised Newsagents, 150-152 Gray St.  Hamilton.

Here ends my true story of the hassle I had in 1981 – and if you think how long all this took only twelve weeks, and I am pleased of the decisions I made, and I hope that I will never live to regret April 10 1981 – A day which will long live in my memory.

I am grateful to Mr. & Mrs. McNaughton, to Monivae College, and most of all my parents who tried so hard to support me and help me, a job which they did and will always do so well.


Sane Australia is a good place to start if my blog raises any issues for you and you’d like some help.


  1. I could never understand why people thought I was a ‘poof’ as I wasn’t ‘camp’ in the slightest
  2.  Code for someone might work out that I really am gay
  3. This is mostly a lot of prayers and team building
  4.  I was sleeping in a dorm with 15 other guys, some of them I fancied, this was a real challenge for a 17-year-old gay guy
  5. How could I stop being gay?
  6.  Fear of being outed as gay was a huge concern
  7.  I was begging god to take this ‘poof’ stuff away from me
  8.  We later went on to be friends when his son was in my Cub Pack
  9.  The relief of not being found out caused the tears, the freedom to start over and be free of the name calling made me happy
  10.  This was perhaps the first time my father let me make a decision about my life.  He sat on my bed and told me that if I didn’t want to go to school that was ok, but that I had to get a job.  He then asked what I wanted to do, I told him I wanted to be a teacher, he said I wasn’t smart enough to be a teacher – that was devastating and had long-lasting implications for me.
  11.  It was a Newsagency.  I was doing fill-in paper rounds and working Saturday mornings
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Nov 15

I’m a survivor of sexual abuse.

It’s a hot topic at the moment.

I have not suffered any sexual abuse at the hands of the catholic church.  I was an altar boy, I attended the catholic Scout Group, I went to St Mary’s primary school and Monivae College secondary school, I was for many years an active member of St Mary’s catholic parish in Hamilton.  In all those years I was never subjected to any thing of a sexual nature by any of those involved in the church.

There was talk at school in the 70’s of priests or brothers being ‘poofters’ and messing around with some of the boarders (I was a day student), there was nothing ever concrete that I recall.  Every now and then a religious type would disappear quickly and rumours would abound.  It wasn’t considered unusual.

The sexual abuse I suffered happened inside my very catholic family.  The church did have a role in how it affected me for many years.  Let me tell you how.

During a recent media conference, Cardinal George Pell, who we are supposed to refer to as His Eminence, said that a priest should never reveal what is said to them during confession.  As the sinful person repenting to the priest you can say anything you like, admit whatever you like, murder, theft, bashing and raping of children, and the priest will never mention that again to anyone.

Confession, which later became known as reconciliation, is a sacrament that the catholics bestow upon the faithful.  It’s the process of declaring your sins to god and having them forgiven and then doing some penance (punishment).  Penance was often saying some prayers, 10 hail marys or a couple of our fathers.  If the sin was really bad then the whole fucking rosary.

During training before making your first confession, the church takes the young person, quite often between 8 and 10, and instructs them on how sin works, how great god is to forgive us those sins and how to beg for that forgiveness.  Sister Rose was my tutor.  She took us grade 3 students (it may have been grade 4, I don’t know) and put the fear of god and eternal damnation into us.  Dying with a sin on your soul would surely see you cast into the pits of hell to burn for all eternity.  Something as simple as chewing gum in class could see you in the company of the devil forever.  I wonder what happened to Paul Kelly, perhaps god forgave him.

There’s a euphoric feeling after confessing.  The church makes sure you feel it.  It’s all set up that way.  You go to church on a Saturday morning, Dad would take us, the confessional boxes are at the back of the church, you sit in the pew, or mostly kneel, praying to god or thinking about how to steal your brother’s records to tape them, and behind you people shuffle along the pews into the confessional only to emerge a few minutes later looking relieved.  There’s  lots of sideways scooting along polished pews and craning of necks to see how many people are before you.

The confessional box is a wooden box with two doors.  You step into your side and it’s dark.  There’s a kneeler, so you kneel.  The priest is on the other side sitting quite comfortably probably with the transistor radio plugged into his ear listening for the scratchings for the races.  There is a wall between you and a small window covered in mesh, so you can’t really see him and he probably can’t really see you.  He flings open the little window, mutters some words in Latin, although it may have been English, and you start with the magic words.

“Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been a month since my last confession and…”

“A month?”

“Yes father”

“That’s a long time and a lot of sinning, you need to come weekly to keep your soul clean”

“Yes father”

“Go on”

“..and my sins are… lying, stealing, picking on my little brother, loosing my temper, being rude”

“Is that all?”

“Yes father”

“How many times did you lie?”

“I don’t know, I lied to mum about breaking a glass”

“I see, and what did you steal?”

“Some chewing gum from the shop”

“And how where you rude?”

“I was rude with my brother”

“And how many times do you lose your temper?”

“All the time, Father”

“Have you missed church?”

“No father”

“So you’ve been every Sunday?”

“Yes father”

“God is pleased,  I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit.  For your penance say one our father and ten hail marys.  Say the act of contrition”

“Oh my god, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good and with your help I will not sin again”

“Bless you my son, go and sin no more”

Then there’s a few amens or waving of hands as you struggle to stand up in the small box, fiddle with the door knob and walk out into the light.  That’s when the feeling of happiness happens, you’ve just bared your 10-year-old soul to a grumpy old man who said some magic words and all has been forgiven.  You promise yourself to never sin again, that normally lasts at least until the last prayer.

Remember, I’m 10, I lack the ability to properly express myself. I don’t even know the right words to describe the abuse.  The priest is also unprepared for the real story coming from the other side of the box.  Here’s a kid who says that he is rude with his brother and loses his temper all the time.  Did that set your alarm bells ringing?  At least to ask a few more questions or perhaps raise the issue with the child’s parents.

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, I can see now as an adult that sticking a kid in a dark box and telling him to tell god his most deep secrets is foolhardy.  At the very least the person on the other side of the mesh has a duty of care to ensure the well-being of the child.  I doubt the priest was even aware of the trauma going on in my life, he certainly had no ability to understand the impact of what being rude means.

If I had disclosed the true nature of being rude the priest would have done nothing, you see the secrecy surrounding the confession is absolute.  While the church continues to hide behind that charade young children are being hurt.

It’s the same reason that I object to christians as school chaplains, they’re not counsellors, they’re not qualified to listen to a child bare their soul.

The continued policy of the catholic church to protect their priests by claiming some sort of religious right to withhold important information has to stop.

It’s rot, absolute bullshit, to say that the confessional is sacred.  It’s not.

How much different my life would have been if the caring priest had of asked what I meant by being rude.  How much better would it have been if he’d had a quiet word to my parents.  How much better if he’d alerted an appropriate counsellor to have a chat with me.  How much better if the church had prepared the priest to handle such disclosures appropriately.

For years and years I imagined every time I sinned a black mark being on my soul.  The soul to me was a round disk inside my body, and every time I sinned it was like taking a pencil and blacking out a section.  In my mind I could see my soul and just how black it was.

Walking out of the confessional was like taking an eraser to the soul and making it sparkling again. Being rude was something I thought was my fault because I was admitting the sin, and not being told I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I was being forgiven.

I think I had it easy.  As traumatic as my experience was I listen to the hurt of those that have been raped and abused by people in the positions of power and I consider myself lucky.

I’ve long ago dealt with the sexual abuse in my life, and I have fully addressed the abuse with the abuser.  My heart goes out to those who now have to struggle with organisations that seek to avoid their responsibilities.

I believe it’s incumbent upon us to support and encourage them.

The royal commission into  child sexual abuse is long overdue.  The likes of the catholic church and other religious establishments to hold special privileges in our democratic state has passed.  They should be held accountable to the full extent of the law and not be permitted to avoid examination or responsibility based on some vague notion that they are somehow only responsible to a deity that would seem to have condoned their shocking behaviour and done nothing to protect innocent children for the vile nasty children rapist and abusers.

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