Victim suffered sickening abuse

TALES OF HORROR: Former Neerkol resident Joseph Kiernan, who now lives in Gympie, retells the horrific stories of his childhood at Neerkol Orphanage.
TALES OF HORROR: Former Neerkol resident Joseph Kiernan, who now lives in Gympie, retells the horrific stories of his childhood at Neerkol Orphanage. Austin King

JOSEPH Kiernan wasn't supposed to live for long after he was born.

But he lived; only to endure years of sickening physical and sexual abuse at Neerkol Orphanage.

Everyone on the first level of the Rockhampton Courthouse could hardly remove from their minds the gripping detail in Joseph's evidence to the Royal Commission panel, during yesterday's hearing into the Neerkol institution.

The Royal Commission heard that Joseph, 54, was a very sick baby.

He told the commission his mother was told he wouldn't live long and "she should just forget about me".

The Department of Children's Services placed Joseph at Neerkol Orphanage when he was seven years old.

Years of punishment, plus episodes of physical and sexual abuse, ensued.

The Sisters of Mercy nuns and former orphanage employee Kevin Baker allegedly punished Joseph for simple things.

He said one nun locked him in a storeroom all day because he had wet himself.

He couldn't get out to use the bathroom so he wet himself again.

Joseph told the Royal Commission that former groundsman Kevin Baker allegedly pushed him down a flight of stairs. Mr Baker has denied these allegations of abuse.

One Friday, after school (which he attended in Rockhampton), Joseph said he returned to the orphanage feeling unwell.

The following day, he sat up in his bed (in the boys' dormitory) and vomited all over the floor.

One of the sisters forced Joseph onto his hands and knees and made him lick up his mess, he said.

Following that, the sister hit him across the back of the head.

Joseph fell to the ground and split open his head.

In church the next day, he had trouble kneeling down to pray. "I was seeing two of everything... I was never taken to the hospital; no one cared."

Joseph said on another occasion, one of the sisters made him kneel for punishment because he had left his hat at school. The nun allegedly pulled up her skirt, dropped her underwear and made him play with her.

Following the act, he said she belted him for leaving his hat behind.

Joseph also graphically detailed the time he was sexually abused with a broom handle.

The years of alleged abuse took its toll on the Gympie resident, who said he took medication frequently to help him sleep at night.

"I often have nightmares because of my childhood," he said.

He said he wanted some form of compensation to pay for his medical expenses, which he had to pay out of his own pocket because he didn't have a Medicare card.

On several occasions he missed doctors' appointments because it was too expensive for the consultation.

One of the best moments in his life was finding his mother, who he grew up believing was dead. He placed an advertisement in the Queensland Country Life publication in the late 1980s, asking if anyone knew his mother.

Joseph tracked down his mother in Hervey Bay. By chance his aunty saw the ad and reconnected them.

"It felt great to meet mum... I started to form a bond with her; I also met other family members," he said.

In 1996, Joseph's mother had a stroke and eventually moved to a nursing home in Gympie. Joseph visited his mother frequently until she died in 2006.

Topics:  child abuse crime neerkol orphanage sexual abuse

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