Garnett Williams as a 21-year-old, and later on a visit to Neerkol in 2002. In 2004 Garnett told his story in a book 'Nigthmare at Neerkol'.
Garnett Williams as a 21-year-old, and later on a visit to Neerkol in 2002. In 2004 Garnett told his story in a book 'Nigthmare at Neerkol'. Nightmare at Neerkol

Abuse scuttled hopes: Neerkol inmate

THERE are some people who refuse to believe that hundreds of children, possibly thousands, were physically and sexually abused by priests and nuns at a children's home near Rockhampton.

But Garnett Williams, who spent five years at St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol, says he knows the full horror of what occurred behind its doors and shutters.

Garnett, who is now 73, has just received $40,000 from the State Government to compensate him for his lost innocence, years of torture and the continuing trauma of events that have scarred his entire life.

And he says when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd finally apologises to the Forgotten Generations on November 16, it will be an official recognition that sickening acts of brutality and degradation were perpetrated against people like him.

In 2004 Garnett told his story in a book, Nightmare at Neerkol, in which he described in vivid detail how he was repeatedly raped by a priest named Father Anderson.

The contents of the book, he says, have never been challenged by the Catholic Church or any other authority.

But he has been extremely disturbed and saddened at hearing that some in Rockhampton had attacked the book as lies.

“It's the full truth and came from the heart,” he said yesterday from his home in Toowoomba.

“Over the years 45,000 children went through that institution and I have received hundreds of letters from those who were there expressing their gratitude for bringing out the truth.”

He said the book had been written on behalf of all those who suffered unimaginable cruelty, physical and sexual abuse, and he had donated all proceeds to a charity for abused children.

His nightmare started when his father was killed in an accident at Mount Chalmers mine in 1943.

His mother was considered unable to cope with her large brood and, along with his sisters, he walked through Neerkol's gates as an eight-year-old.

“They were the gates of hell,” he wrote in the book.

Garnett, who also received $25,000 from the Sisters of Mercy order of nuns who ran the orphanage, insists his sisters were also sexually abused at the home.

His tormentor, Fr Anderson, had destroyed his life.

“I never married and that is a regret because I would have loved to have children. But after the abuse I couldn't let anyone lay a hand on me.”

Incredibly he has retained his faith and says he owes his sanity to his strong religious beliefs.

The book contains accounts from others who also suffered at the hands of Fr Anderson and the Sisters of Mercy who he said could be absolutely vicious.

One woman said she was flogged and horsewhipped by nuns for wetting the bed.

Garnett said: “I hope the book will make people understand what we went through and the type of difficulties many of us face as adults.

“I want to make people aware of how easy it is for those who had the trust of the public, to hide behind authority and not have to meet the consequences of their actions.”

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