The Christian Brothers punished these orphan boys for revealing a Brother's crimes

By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 17 May 2016

In the 1960s, Christian Brother William Stuart Houston (born 18 February 1939) committed sexual crimes against numerous boys whom he was supervising at St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong, Victoria. He managed to evade justice for the next fifty years but on 17 May 2016 six of his victims finally succeeded in getting him jailed for his crimes. At the sentencing, Judge Peter Kidd said that some of these victims had tried to tell other Christian Brothers at the orphanage about Houston's offences but were punished for doing so.

Some background information

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.

William Houston's most recent work for the Christian Brothers was as the leader of a community of elderly Brothers in Melbourne. Around 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.”

How the court case unfolded

Houston first faced a Victorian magistrates court in 1997, charged with 14 offences, including indecent assault and buggery. After preliminary proceedings, the Office of Public Prosecutions decided to wait for more alleged victims to surface.

In 2008 another two accusers came forward and the original alleged victim signed a fresh police statement, thus making a new prosecution viable. And Houston moved out of his Christian Brothers accommodation to a private address, thus making him a "former" Christian Brother.

An investigation was conducted by detectives in a new specialist unit (Taskforce Sano in the Victoria Police sex-crimes squad). Broken Rites advised several other alleged victims of Houston to speak to these detectives.

On 8 October 2015, after a preliminary ("committal") hearing, the Melbourne Magistrates Court ordered Houston to stand trial at the Victorian County Court, facing multiple charges relating to a number of orphanage boys. At the County Court, Houston won the right to face a series of juries, with each jury looking at a small, separate batch of charges, instead of one jury dealing with all the charges.

In April 2016, the first jury returned a verdict of guilty on four charges of buggery, plus one of attempted buggery and three of indecent assault, committed against three boys at the orphanage. Houston, aged 77, then chose to plead guilty to 12 charges of indecent assault, committed against three other boys. This cancelled the need for three further juries which he had been scheduled for Houston.

Pre-sentence hearing

On 5 May 2016, the County Court began a pre-sentence hearing. This enabled any of the victims to tell the court how the church-abuse had impacted on their lives. Also, submissions were made by the prosecutor and the defence lawyer, summing up significance of the case.

Prosecutor Ray Gibson said Houston preyed on vulnerable boys in his care, often abusing them while they were in their beds. The effects of the prolonged offending had been profound, given the serious breach of trust.

After abusing one boy, Houston told him: "Don't tell anyone. That's right, you can't tell anyone because you've got no one."

One victim, now aged in his sixties, told the court that he reported Houston's sex-abuse to two other Brothers, separately, but each of them strapped the child for reporting it.

This victim told the court how he developed a "short fuse" from being regularly abused for at least a year, for not being believed and at being dumped in the outside world to fend for himself when he turned 16. The anger inside him had affected his marriage, family relationships and friendships. "I became a violent, angry drunk," he said.

The court heard that another victim, also, was punished after reporting Houston.

When one boy reported Brother William Stuart Houston's sexual abuse, the head Brother strapped the child in front of the orphanage's other boys, declaring: "This is what we do to boys who fabricate stories about us".


Sentencing Houston on 17 May 2016, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd saiad the boys were powerless to stop Houston’s offending and each was especially vulnerable.

“They were wards of the state. They were young and they were under your control,” the judge told Houston. “You were fully cognisant of this vulnerability.”

Judge Kidd said Houston was meant to protect and nurture the boys, but didn’t.

“Instead you arrogantly abused your authority over each of them for your own perverse sexual gratification. What occurred here amounted to a disgraceful breach of trust.”

Three of the victims who tried to complain to staff at the orphanage at the time were punished, the judge said.

“Tragically the complaints or partial complaints of three of your victims were variously met with denials and physical punishment by other staff members at the orphanage,” he said.

“The reaction of staff simply serves to demonstrate how it was virtually impossible for a child in those circumstances to come forward and meaningfully pursue a complaint.

“It also explains how you were able to continue to offend in this disturbing atmosphere of impunity.”

Judge Kidd jailed Houston (aged 77) for 12 years and nine months with a minimum of eight years.

  • To see another Broken Rites article about William Stuart Houston, click HERE.