I consider place of birth and national identity to be two very different things (aww really, I hear you cry). But like a lot of people who lived in Assholia between the years of 1987 and 1994, I watched a lot of episodes of the situation comedy titled Hey Dad..! (The dots are apparently a part of the title.)
Hey Dad..! was produced by a company called Gary Reilly Productions. Creation of the show is credited to Gary Reilly and John Flanagan. Like a lot of television shows of the time, it based itself around a pretty simple formula. A recently-widowed man struggles to balance his business as an architect and the demands of his family. Fortunately for him, his children are closing in on adulthood or near enough to it that they can fend for themselves. However, the dynamic between a man, his irritatingly stupid employee, and his near-grown children is basically what drove the comedy of the series.
I will say this much about the show. In its early stages, it was both funny and compelling. The man in this story, Martin Kelly, was played by a distinct-looking fellow named Robert Hughes. Reading the Wikipedia entry for the series reveals that the reason he keeps on Julie McGregor’s character in spite of said character’s incredible stupidity is because she is the cousin of his late wife. That makes sense. The writing is very solid early on in the show. Episodes occurred that dealt with such things as adult illiteracy, with surprisingly effective results.
However, some very serious accusations were made in recent years concerning Robert Hughes. The source of these accusations was Sarah Monahan, who was all of ten years old when the series was first broadcast. Sarah alleged that Robert had molested her in the physical, sexual sense of the word. After a police task force investigated these accusations, and other witnesses came forward, Robert Hughes was tried over a period of five and a half weeks.
Thus far, Hughes has been convicted of nine charges. These charges were sustained by a unanimous guilty verdict. That is, twelve ordinary people who have no connection to Hughes or Monahan agreed that the State had met their burden of proof in alleging that Hughes had molested children. (If my phrasing of that statement is wrong, please suggest a more appropriate one. I will append this statement accordingly.)
I will admit to some bias in this matter. But not that much. For one thing, Sarah Monahan is an adult now and understands (all too well, probably) what the phrase “burden of proof” means. Whilst my memory of Hey Dad..! is growing dim, I do remember a certain sense of how the cast in the series seemed very segregated a lot of the time. Shots where Hughes was in frame with his female co-stars always seemed conspicuously segregated. That is, whenever Hughes was in frame with anything female, he seemed to be as far away from them as the requirements of the shot would allow. Television is a close-up medium (or it was in those days), but the number of shots where he seems to be literally fifty feet from a cast member were numerous.
Most damning of all is that later-generation Hey Dad..! actor Ben Oxenbould has come forward and supported the allegations. (In this context, when I say later-generation, I mean that Oxenbould came into the show to replace a departing original cast member. This ended up happening a lot on Hey Dad..!. So much so, in fact, that by the time the show ended, Julie McGregor was the only actor who stayed with the series from beginning to end. More on this in due course.)
It is one thing if one person you worked with says that you molested them. It is another entirely when another person you worked with says that they witnessed you molesting at least that person. There is a reason why investigations tend to begin as soon as a second person puts their hand up.
Also pretty interesting is the fact that cast members left the show in a serial fashion. I forget who was the first to leave, but I do remember well when the cast member I liked the most, Simone Buchanan, left the series. After that, the quality of the series’ dynamic, took a nosedive. Simone played the elder of the two daughters on the show, and often supported dynamics well with sarcasm and smartarsery right when it was needed. She was also not that much bigger than a child (by the time either left the show, Sarah was quite noticeably taller than Simone). Simone, by the way, also supports the charges. Not as strongly as Ben does, but her support is enough that I believe them.
I think it is actually pretty telling that the cast member who did stay with the show from beginning to end, outlasting Hughes in the process, was an adult. Not just that, she was never in-frame with Hughes (to my memory). All of the shots during her at-desk conversations with Hughes were medium shots with cuts from one actor to the other. And like any long shot where it was not required for Hughes to hold hands or hand anything to the actor, she was generally shot at least ten feet from him. Given that television shows of that era were shot with overscan, a 68-centimetre (aka 26 inch) set, and a 4:3 frame in mind, that says a lot.
What really damns Hughes, however, is some statements from Monahan. In this article from Perth Now, she says that her school demanded she “have a psychiatrist” (in her words). Apparently, she was able to draw “perfect penises”. In the articles I have read, she does not specify exactly how old she was at that time. But I agree with her school in that there is something seriously wrong when a girl in school can draw a “perfect” (I assume this means anatomically convincing/correct) penis.
Writing this article has caused twofold physical responses from me. My blood glucose level is below 3.0 without sufficient insulin and food deficit to fully explain that. And I have an acute case of the sobs. But that is neither here nor there.
To Ben Oxenbould, I would like to say I commend you for having the courage to come forward about this. Yes, it took a long time. Yes, it took another person in the cast coming forward. But I salute you for coming forward. I have no doubt that that Sarah’s biggest fear when coming forward about it was that nobody would support her. By coming forward and telling the world that her story warrants consideration, you have done the thing that every victim of abuse deserves and dreams of.
To Sarah Monahan, there is much I would like to say face to face. But since I doubt that will ever happen, I will just make some remarks here. First, “it’s not like he raped me”. Well, no, the events you describe are not rape, but I am sure you do not need me to tell you that the results differ little.
However, that is not really even an issue. What I want to say is thank you. Thank you for having the bravery to come forth and beat back a small part of the child abuse culture that still exists around us. Thank you for holding up a mirror to the black heart of our society that allows child abuse culture to prevail. For years, I sat in front of a television and watched Hey Dad..!, enjoying the exchanges between specific sets of characters.
I am not going to lie to you. Robert Hughes is a monster, but he was also a very talented comedic actor. Watching him tell Julie McGregor in one episode that a certain item I forget the exact nature of is a status symbol, thus she should not get herself one because she has no status, made me laugh until I cried. But the knowledge I have now that I was letting a disgusting person into my consciousness is only more difficult to deal with as a result.
In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is that we live in a world where people only want to see the good in others, and will go to any lengths to do so. When the bad in others damages lives to the extent that it clearly has yours, people will still go to absurd lengths to defend them. It is not fair, it is not right, and it is one of the failings of this world that makes me wish I could stop being a part of it. But as long as there are people like you who will stand up and say no, this is not okay, there is something worth saving. Please never forget that.
Finally, to Gary Reilly, I have the following to say. How dare you. People came to you as the abuse was happening and tried to make it stop. The article is not specific, but it states that “producers” told Mister Oxenbould that the molestation he tried to alert you to was “a lesson in professionalism”.
Am I reading/hearing that right, Mister Reilly? A lesson in professionalism? A man is telling you that he has literally seen another man on your set molesting a child actor, and you are telling him that professionalism entails turning your back? Is that really what you told Mister Oxenbould?
I guess you and I have very different definitions of professionalism. Because when someone tells me they are concerned to the point where they will physically remove one of their co-stars from another co-star’s presence, I do not tell them to just ignore it for the sake of “professionalism”. In fact, word has it that Hughes resigned from the show after being confronted about the molestations. When people come to me and tell me that a man I work with is doing something unconscionable to vulnerable people within the organisation, I investigate it. I call the police.
I dream that maybe one day our species will live in a world where child abuse simply does not happen. That is, if overpopulation does not make us extinct first. I dream that all children, even child actors, will live in a world where they can just flat-out take for granted that nobody is going to molest them.
In closing, I will just say that my faith in Humanity, in the society I am (involuntarily) a part of is shattered on a very frequent basis. A nation has no business proclaiming itself the “lucky country” when its disabled residents are the poorest disabled residents in the OECD. And a society that tolerates child abuse to such an extent that it takes a victimised girl the lion’s share of twenty years to come forward, well, I think we can just let that one stand on its own.
Right now, I bet that there are many parental units in Australia who just shook their head and decided that since it was not their child, it does not concern them.
I want to thank (sarcasm) the people who do that for helping further incidents of this kind to happen.
And just to be an asshole, I want to dedicate this song to Robert Hughes. I hope you rot in there.