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In 1963-1970 Christian Brother William Stuart Houston worked at St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong, Victoria. In June 1997 he appeared in the Geelong Magistrates Court, charged with committing 14 sexual offences against a boy at St Augustine's in the 1960s. At the time of this court case, Houston was listed as living at a Christian Brothers residential address in Melbourne.
The police investigation had been conducted by the Geelong Criminal Investigation Unit.
After hearing evidence, Magistrate Ron Eggleston ruled that there was enough evidence to proceed with three of the charges. On 17 June 1997, Mr Eggleston ordered that Houston, then aged 58, should stand trial in the Victorian County Court on one charge of buggery and two of indecent assault. Houston (date of birth 18 February 1939) was remanded on bail pending a County Court hearing.
The magistrate’s order was reported in the Melbourne Herald Sun, 18 June 1997, page 10, with a photo of William Houston.
However, the County Court trial has not yet been held as the Director of Prosecutions did not wish to fund a single-victim trial in 1997.
The complainant in the 1997 prosecution (Mr F*****) came from a family of nine children. He himself said he was a rebellious child with alcoholic parents. He was made a ward of the state and sent to St Augustine’s orphanage in 1969 when he was 12 years old. He was there for two years.
In 1999, Mr F***** told his local member of Parliament (Peter McLellan, Liberal member for Frankston East) about the delay in getting a trial. On 14 April 1999, Mr McLellan made a speech in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, in which he quoted sections of Mr F’s police statement. Mr McLellan, who was raised as a Catholic, said the delay in holding a County Court trial was an injustice to both Mr F and Brother Houston.
Speech in Parliament
The speech in the Victorian Legislative Assembly by Peter McLellan MP, on behalf of Mr F*****, is available on the internet in the VicHansard archive. Here is the Hansard text, pages 280-2:-
Mr McLELLAN (Frankston East) said : "I join the debate with some trepidation because the subject matter I wish to speak on is something not to be taken lightly. I wish to talk about the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy in trust. I will explain to the house why I have a great deal of difficulty with this issue and why I have thought for a long time about what I was going to say this morning.
"My involvement with the Catholic Church goes back a long way. I was raised a Catholic and my aunt is a Catholic nun. She taught at the Catholic Ladies College in Melbourne and has taught three of my sisters. She is now aged in her 70s. My mother's uncle is Father Adrian Martin, who founded St Bede's College in Mentone and later became Monsignor Martin. We are very proud of our family's involvement in the Catholic Church.
"I find it very difficult to contribute to the debate by raising the matter of the abuse of a 12-year-old boy and several other young boys by a Christian brother. There is a duty on members of Parliament not to abuse the privileges of the house by making allegations that could besmirch a person's character and there is one's duty as an MP to one's constituents; it is a finely balanced and difficult position to be in.
"Six months ago one of my constituents came to me with this case, and although I may not like raising the matter, I must do so. The man's name is Mr F***** and he lives in my electorate. At the age of 12 he was placed in St Augustine's Orphanage in Geelong. Three days after being placed in the orphanage the first incident of abuse is alleged to have occurred. Mr F***** described it very well when he said that he was sexually abused in St Augustine's Orphanage in Geelong for a period of two to two and a half years...
"Admittedly he was a rowdy sort of lad and was probably terribly difficult for his family to control. He was one of nine children and he admits that his family was dysfunctional. His parents and his stepfather were alcoholics, and he got into a lot of trouble at school. He was not functioning well as a 12-year-old and the decision was made by the court to place him in an orphanage. He was placed in St Augustine's Orphanage in dorm 4.
"I will quote from Mr F*****'s statement to the police:
QUOTE from Mr F's police statement:"I remember about three days after I got to the orphanage I was lying in my bed, I could see Brother Houston walking down the aisle way to my bed, even though lights had gone out, which they did at 8.30 p.m. Brother Houston came up to me and said in a quiet voice, 'I need to speak to you'.
"I had seen Brother Houston take one of the other boys into his room earlier, and I thought I had done something wrong during the course of the day, as I had sworn at one of the other brothers during the day ... When Brother Houston asked to speak to me I got out of bed and followed him to his room. I couldn't find my dressing gown so I just went in what I had been sleeping in, my underpants and a singlet. When I went into Brother Houston's room I saw my dressing gown on a stool in his room ... Brother Houston told me to sit down and I went to the stool and sat on top of my dressing gown. I remember sitting on that stool, and seeing the table beside me which was set up with glasses and a strap, I later came to know that particular strap extremely well as it was used to hit me quite a bit.
"I asked Brother Houston if I had done something wrong ... he said, 'This is something I do with all the new boys'.
"Brother Houston got off his chair and stood almost behind me and lifted my singlet up and over my head until it was off. He then rubbed his hand up and down gently on my back. He did this really softly and I think I asked him what's happening or why was he doing this, and he replied again, 'It's something I do with all the new boys'. Brother Houston was wearing a big long black robe. ... I didn't see him undo any tie he just took it off, and he was completely naked underneath. When Brother Houston had taken his robe off he sat down on his chair beside me and placed his hand on my upper thigh and started to rub up and down my leg and inner thigh ... Brother Houston told me to take my underpants off, and again I questioned why ... I didn't feel I could do anything but what he wanted. For one thing he kept telling me, 'It's something I do'". [End of quote from Mr F's police statement.]
Mr McLELLAN continued: "I do not want to continue reading the police statement because people would find it offensive. Mr F***** described at least a dozen, if not more, instances in which he was sexually abused by this Brother.
"He also stated that when he went to the superior the next day after the first abuse he was called a filthy little liar by the superior and beaten again. My constituent described several other incidents where up to four boys in one day went to this brother's room and the same thing happened to them.
"In 1996 Mr F***** went to the police and made a statement. The police interviewed the Brother and other men. As a result of that many charges were laid. At the committal hearing it was indicated that some charges could not be substantiated but that a prima facie case could be made. Several charges were laid against the Brother. The matter then went to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) but because of the length of time that had elapsed -- the offences had occurred between 1969 and 1971 -- it was found that it would be difficult to get a conviction and the DPP refused to proceed with the prosecution of the case. That is a shame because there have been many instances where cases like this have proceeded and convictions have been recorded.
"The house would be well aware of them.
"Mr F***** has been denied his day in court. He believes he has been denied access to justice. If the allegations are correct action should be taken. We all cherish our young people. Many times honourable members have spoken in the house about our duty of care to young people in the community. We have a particular duty of care when young people who are placed in institutions for their own safety and wellbeing are abused. It is something that all honourable members find very difficult to deal with.
"Mr F***** has a history of not being able to cope with life. I have reports from psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors spanning many years. They all agree that that abuse from an early age gravely affected his ability to cope with life, particularly family life...
"He is an average muddler who will get through life the best way he can. He has been married for some 17 years and has a young family. His family is supportive of him and understands the amount of trauma and anguish he suffered and endured during his years at the orphanage.
"The decision by the office of the DPP to not proceed with the case is not correct. Justice has been denied to Mr F***** and several others who have been abused. If the case had gone to court others would have come out of the woodwork. In his statement he named other men who were young boys at the time, and the statement has not been denied by any of them. Sooner or later the accused has to be caught up with. If the allegations are incorrect his name and the names of the people at the orphanage will be cleared. If the case goes to court it will give confidence to others who have to go into orphanages and to people who have happier memories of being orphans of the state.
"Unfortunately, there comes a time when one must stand up and be counted, and this is one such case.
"I believe Mr F*****'s statements are true. I see no reason why he would embellish any information. Why would a man come to me and want to go public over something that was false? Given that he has that sort of commitment to having his day in court, I believe Mr F***** is genuine. It would have been a difficult decision for him and his family. They know that this representation is being made today and that the newspapers could pick it up. They know his name could be spread all over the papers and that he could be easily identified...
"It is time to take the matter seriously. It is time that the Office of Public Prosecutions had another look at the case and reviewed its decision...
"As I said, I struggled with the issue for some time before deciding to bring it to the attention of the House."
End of speech in the Victorian Parliament by Mr Peter McLellan, MP.
A history book, St Augustine’s and the Christian Brothers (by Brother Peter Chapman, 1993), says that Brother William Houston was at St Augustine’s, Geelong, between 1963 and 1971. The book says that at the beginning of 1971 Brother Bill Houston was transferred to teach at the Christian Brothers’ school in Broadmeadows, in Melbourne’s north (this was Therry College, which later became Penola Catholic College). It is believed that, in the early 1990s, Brother Bill Houston was at CBC (Christian Brothers College), St Kilda East, Melbourne.
After the 1997 court case, William Stuart Houston continued his connection with the Christian Brothers. Some time after the year 2000, a Christian Brothers website stated: "Bill Houston is the community leader of our Mt Sion Aged Care Facility at Parkville [Melbourne]. His duties include caring for the aged there and seeing to their general well being, assisting them with transport and seeing that the facility meets the demands of government inspectors."
In April 2001 the Christian Brothers accepted Mr F*****'s complaint and paid a small amount of compensaton to him.
On 9 June 2002, Mr F***** was interviewed on the Australian television program “Sixty Minutes”. During this program, viewers were shown the 2001 private settlement document.
This compensation payment was a private gesture (an "ex gratia" payment) and does not prevent the Director of Public Prosecutions from reviving the criminal court matter.
In 2008, a Christian Brothers website (www.edmundrice.org.au, which is labelled as the "official website of the Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers") reported that Edmund Rice Refugee Services (which is connected with the Christian Brothers) held a picnic in Melbourne, which was attended by about 200 refugees and about 30 volunteer helpers. The web site thanked the helpers who (it said) included Bill Houston.
New court proceedings in 2010In late 2009 the Geelong Police criminal investigations unit received signed sworn statements about William Stuart Houston from two witnesses who were boys residing at St Augustine's orphanage in the 1960s.
On 12 February 2010, William Stuart Houston appeared before a magistrate in the the Geelong Magistrates Court, where prosecutors filed these two additional allegations.
The court was told that William Houston is charged with incidents of buggery and indecent assault, allegedly committed against these two boys.
The magistrate scheduled the new charges to come up in court again for a committal mention in mid-2010, when the court will decide the next step in these proceedings.
The prosecution indicated that in connection with the 2010 proceedings, the prosecution will also revive the matter of Mr F*****, who has signed a fresh statement for the Geelong police for the 2010 proceedings.
Detectives are continuing their inquiries. The police contact for the 2010 court proceedings is Detective Senior Constable Duane Hagger, of Geelong, telephone 03 5225 3100.