Mandurah theatre identity revisits horror of abuse following Royal Commission into International Responses to Child Abuse


Sacha Mahoub. Picture: Jon Hewson
Sacha Mahoub. Picture: Jon Hewson

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this week he would make an apology to victims of institutional child abuse by the end of the year.

Jill Burgess talks to one of those victims.

RECALLING his childhood in a Queensland orphanage still brings tears to the eyes of local theatrical identity Sacha Mahboub.

Mahboub (77) said the horrors of the years between the ages of 11 and 15 get worse as he gets older.

Between the age of six, when he was placed in St Joseph’s College, near Rockhampton, and 11, the years are a complete fog.

When he was interviewed by the Royal Commission into International Responses to Child Abuse, he told the Commission the horrendous and cruel treatment received from nuns at St Joseph’s Home, Neerkoll had haunted him throughout his life.

His physical and sexual abuse seemed to have happened yesterday although many years had passed.

“Child abuse is on TV and in the media all the time, the politicians say they are doing this and that but then argue among themselves and nothing gets done,’’ he said.

Mahboub is proud of his achievements, personal and professional, but finds as he gets older he is grieving longer and harder over the lost years.

“Its almost impossible to try and forget that wasteful, hurtful and devastating time,’’ he said.

He said St Joseph’s, which closed down in 1977, had been described as the worst orphanage in Australia and as a “hell hole” by the Commission.

“I’ve never experienced such cruelty before or since,’’ he said.

“They break you down, they break your spirit and leave you with a terrible legacy.

“I don’t know how I found the strength to survive.

“Every day would dawn with beltings and bashings.”

As the boys prayed in their dormitory, one num would lay into them for no reason.

When Mahboub bravely told her it did not hurt, she beat him even harder and he thought he was going to die.

This particular nun’s favoured punishment tool was a thin leather drive belt from a pedal Singer sewing machine kept permanently beneath her habit.

His back on numerous occasions was a mass of bleeding welts.

On another occasion, his head was banged against the wall until his head split – and there was no treatment.

The only thought he had to cling to was his older sister, but in the 11 years she was also in the orphanage, they were never allowed to meet.

The youngsters were told they were in the orphanage because their parents did not want them.

“Lots of children of my generation now have dreadful problems,’’ Mahboub said.

There were plans to compensate survivors but so far it has not happened.

He said reasonably large compensation payments were originally considered but believed the latest idea is to base it on the level of abuse suffered.

Compensation payments come up for discussion again in July.

“We have fought all those years and could still end up with nothing,’’ Mahboub said.

“You really lose faith in the system and the nightmare never ends.”

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