Image above: Construction of the administration building at Bindoon, 1952.
Brother Kearney, of Bindoon notoriety, was a saint to the Catholic Church and a monster to the boys placed in his “care”. The Catholic Church erected a huge statue of him at Bindoon. In a case of typical Aussie larrikinism, former boys at the Home knocked its head off one day. Reports indicate that they were observed attempting to use it as a football.
One of the six Royal Commissioners, former Senator for Western Australia, Andrew Murray, once described Kearney as “a sadist who indulged in criminal assault and who knowingly protected rings of predatory Brothers engaged in systemic, long-term sexual assault on defenceless children (Hansard 2001, p.27275 – Matter of Public Interest). Presumably, Mr. Murray will be eager to revisit the matter during the course of the Royal Commission.
Former inmates of Bindoon also pull no punches with regard to “The Orphans’ Friend” (as the plaque on his statue reads) Kearney, an abuser who stood 6ft. tall and weighed 17 stone. Laurie Humphreys says that “I guess you could call him a sadist”. John Hennessy, also from Bindoon, speaks with a stutter which he says is a legacy of being stripped naked and publicly flogged by Kearney. He notes that “At Bindoon, the threat of violence was ever present. The Brothers carried a strap consisting of leather stitched together and a metal weight.”
In a glowing tribute to Kearney, even the Christian Brothers had to acknowledge that “Conversely, some former inmates remember him as a brutal disciplinarian with an ungovernable temper, who neglected their education, exploited their labour and turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of them by other members of the staff.” Note the use of “some” rather than “all” in that statement. The paragraph concludes, for some reason, with the statement that “An enthusiast, Keaney was easily depressed by criticism.”
The 2001 Australian Senate Community Affairs and References Committee Report, titled “Lost Innocents: Righting the Record – Report on Child Migration”, detailed evidence which revealed the “depraved, violent and abusive nature” of Brother Keaney and his role in the “systematic abuse of children under his care”. In submissions to the Committee report, individuals who had been abused by Keaney described his brutality; “I lost my teeth at Bindoon – my face kicked repeatedly by Brother Keaney”. Similarly – “Br. Keaney was a very sadistic, perverted and deviant paedophile. He abused many of the boys… in his care. Tragically, there was just no one that we victims could go to for help. Who would have believed us anyway?”
Another former Bindoon resident stated that “The Christian Brothers used to walk around with a thick 18in leather strap hanging from the waist of their long, black outfits, and they’d give you a wallop at the slightest opportunity. They’d hit you wherever they could – be it on the backside or sole of the foot – and boy, did it hurt. Once I was on the receiving end of a real hiding from one of them. He was giving a younger lad a hard time and I must have said something under my breath. He lashed out with his strap and put in his boot. I ended up cowering under my bed, trying to escape him, and was left covered in bruises.”
Yet another noted that “He liked to prod us with a walking stick, and was one of the cruelest people I’ve ever met.”
A secret church report about Christian Brothers’ institutions such as Bindoon in Western Australia from the mid-30s right up to the mid-60s refers to:
- brothers who were “odd or mentally unstable”,
- of a “sex underworld”
- of brothers who “shared boys” for sexual purposes
- and that often the church hierarchy knew of the abuse and did nothing about it.
Kearney’s Bindoon was billed as an educational institution, but as one former resident claimed, “There was no teaching at Bindoon, and I know of several former inmates who still cannot read or write.” Another reported that “there wasn’t much in the way of schooling. I’d always been good at school in England but it pretty much ended overnight. A lot of the boys at Bindoon never learnt how to read or write.”
A CBS Television documentary aired in the U.S. claimed that, at Bindoon, “The priority was construction. Brother Francis Keaney, an imposing, white-haired Irishman who ran the place, was obsessed with building the largest Catholic institution in Western Australia. He used his charges as labor. From sunrise to sunset, the boys built Brother Keaney’s shrine, with no shoes, and no questions asked.”
When the Christian Brothers arrived in 1939 with the first group of seven boy labourers, the only building on the property was a mud-brick homestead which became their home. After the work of a generation of boys, the facility is grandiose and has been listed by the West Australian Government as a heritage-listed property. The “Statement of Significance” refers to “The design, use of local materials, use of child labour, relationships of the buildings, and period during which they were constructed, make the places exceptionally significant, both individually and in their precinct setting. The place has an exceptional ‘sense of place’ for the ‘boys’, and their families.”
When Kearney arrived in 1940, with another eight boys, foundations were dug and one wing of the first building, the dormitory block now known as Edmund House, was officially opened by 1941. Most of the building work was completed by 1953. During construction, two boys died in accidents and a third died from an undefined cause. They are buried in simple graves on the site, while Br. Kearney’s grave has a large marble headstone, and, of course, a (headless) statue.
Not only did Kearney use forced child labour to build his edifice, he treated the boys badly in ways other than sexual abuse and violence. One of his slaves remembered that, on arrival, “We were immediately put to work. I learnt how to milk a cow within a week, and then we began constructing a new building. By the time I was 14, I was driving a truck. We’d work, sleep and eat. That was it.”
He also reported that “We slept on open verandas all-year round – and when a wind blew up, it got pretty cold. Foodwise, we’d get crushed wheat or porridge for breakfast, followed by bread in dripping (cow fat). The rest of the meals were similarly plain: we seemed to subsist on a diet of swedes and turnips.”
For his efforts, Kearney received Imperial Honours awards, known as an MBE and ISO. Despite all of the evidence of his unworthiness for such prestigious awards, attempts by many people to have the awards rescinded have, so far, been unsuccessful.
[Postscript: Still up to their old tricks. Christian Brother, Edward Bryan, 59, has recently been found guilty of indecently assaulting three boys.]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: Brother Kearney, the Perfect
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)