A law firm that has acted for hundreds of victims of sexual and other abuse has welcomed the federal government’s announcement of a Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse in Australia, and has called on the Catholic Church and other institutions to be open and accountable during the inquiry.
Slater and Gordon General Manager, Hayden Stephens, said the Royal Commission was about calling authorities to account to reveal the truth for victims of past abuse, and to ensure that those leading these institutions adopt appropriate measures to protect children under their care.
“We expect this Royal Commission will uncover systemic mismanagement within the Catholic Church and other institutions that victims have been telling us for decades,” Mr Stephens said.
“Widespread abuse of children has been occurring across Catholic institutions for more than 50 years. Attempts by victims in the past to call the Catholic Church, Christian Brothers Orphanages and the St John of God institutions to account have been stymied by legal technicalities that have ensured victims are shut out and fair redress is denied,” he said.
In the 1990s, Slater and Gordon represented approximately 250 men who, as children, were victims of sexual abuse while under the roof of the Catholic Church and Christian Brothers Order.
“Perpetrators colluded to extend the reach of their predatory behaviour and information was shared between paedophiles about vulnerable targets. They also worked together to suppress complaints. Meanwhile, church superiors protected these perpetrators, often relocating them between institutions when their activity became too overt.
“No authority, church or otherwise, with the responsibility of caring for children should be able to escape liability when that responsibility, at all levels within the hierarchy, so dramatically fails.
“I hope this Inquiry will hear how the Catholic Church used its complex corporate structure to avoid responsibility for the known failing of their predecessors, and how technical manoeuvring of state based limitation laws were used to shut out claims from the Court door.
“It is imperative that church authorities and other institutions now make publically available all relevant information demonstrating knowledge and management of paedophiliac activity in their institutions.”