Tracey Spicer: My school days at a Catholic college were anything but rosy.

Remember the days of the old school yard?

We used to laugh a lot. Oh, don’t you

Remember the days of the old school yard?

Ah, it’s lovely to reminisce.

We had simplicity and warm toast for tea, to quote Cat Stevens.

Why, we’d play in the street until dark! Kids weren’t molly-coddled like they are these days! All of that rough-and-tumble was character building!

Girls were girls and boys were boys; mum ran the home while dad was at work.

Life was easier in those days, wasn’t it…?

Well, the answer is “no”.

This week, writing my memoir, I revisited the ghosts of schools past.

tracey spicer uni grad
Tracey when she graduated university in 1987. (Image: Twitter)

My senior years, at Frawley College on the outskirts of Brisbane, held a rosy hue: the passion of the teachers; the camaraderie of schoolmates; the myth of “the best time of our lives”.

Anything that didn’t fit the Disney version of events was obviously an aberration.

That sick feeling in the stomach when a gang of boys yelled, “Show us your tits!” was just “boys being boys”.

The shiver up the spine when one of the Brothers grabbed a student’s arse was clearly an over-reaction.

And girls being told to ignore maths because they’d find a nice man to look after them seemed a logical conclusion.

Looking back, it was clear: misogyny, child abuse and bullying were on the curriculum.

A fish rots from its head: the corruption went all the way to the top.

One of the founders – let’s call him Monsignor Frawley because, hey, that was his name – covered up systemic child sexual abuse.

As kids, we were ignorant. Sure, there were whispers in the corridor. But we didn’t really understand what was going on.

yong schoolgirl leaning against locker sad
Looking back, it was clear: misogyny, child abuse and bullying were on the curriculum. (Image via iStock)

“Backs to the wall. Brother Ibar’s on the crawl!” the boys would shout.

Young, strong and good-looking, Frank Keating – who, believe it or not, later changed his name to Ibar – was a role model for the rugby boys.

He was later convicted of molesting dozens of boys, shoving his hands down their pants and fondling their genitals.

Another ‘man of God’, Brother Wilfred De Cruz, raped and mauled students in a shed near the duck pond.

The progeny of powerful families knew to stay away; the rest of us were too naïve, scared, or powerless to speak out.

Many of the victims self-medicated with drugs and alcohol: several later killed themselves.

In a way, it was a life lesson: Men hold all the power; institutional abuse crushes the vulnerable; and self-interest rules.

Not much has changed.

Sure, Cat Stevens is now Yusuf Islam.

The Royal Commission has exposed the sins of the Brothers.

And there are legal protections for children at school.

As a school friend wrote on facebook, “If anyone bullied my daughter like we were bullied at school, I would be off to a lawyer quick smart”.

Still, there are the naysayers who complain that kids have “too much power” and we should “bring back the strap” to stop this “culture of litigiousness”.

Whenever you hear someone saying such things, please remember this story.

school girl
Whenever you hear someone saying such things, please remember this story. (Image via iStock)

For there was a time when children were beaten, raped, abused, belittled, degraded, and shamed every day at school.

This is NOT character building.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d tell those boys who yelled “slut” to f*ck off. Might even seek legal advice.

I’d ask my parents to call the police to investigate the paedophile priests.

And I’d tell that maths teacher two things: girls are as smart as boys, and a man is not a financial plan.

No, life wasn’t simpler back then. It was like The Hunger Games. Children were screwed by the system.

It’s time to take off the rose-coloured glasses.

Don’t you remember the days of the old schoolyard?

We used to cry a lot. Oh, don’t you

Remember the days of the old school yard?

If you are struggling with any of the topics raised in this post, please contact Lifeline, Beyond Blue or Bravehearts or phone 1800 RESPECT.

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