Case studies including horrific stories of abuse were aired during public hearings held by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from September 2013 to March 2017.
After five years of emotionally exhausting and confronting public hearings, the Commission will hand its report to the Governor-General this Friday.
What you need to know:
- Most of the 57 case studies related to particular organisations and institutions, while others looked at broader issues like redress and civil litigation, criminal justice, out-of-home care and the harmful sexual behaviours of children in schools.
- Over 400 hearing days, 1,200 witnesses gave evidence.
- It was impossible for the Commission to hold hearings into all the institutions raised by survivors in private sessions.
- Instead, the Commission chose case studies by looking at how many people had reported abuse in a particular institution or group of institutions; the availability of witnesses and documents; whether the case raised systemic issues; the need to cover a range of institutions and the requirement hearings be held in all states and territories.
- The hearings were broadcast live online, giving everyone the chance to follow the Commission's work whether it was sitting in a capital city or regional centre.
Here is a snapshot of just a few of the institutions the Commission investigated:
The Salvation Army
Hundreds of children were sexually abused at Salvation Army boys' homes in Queensland and New South Wales in the 1960s and 70s, the Royal Commission was told.
During case study 5 — one of three case studies conducted into the Salvation Army — the Commission heard details of abuse at the organisation's boys' homes at Indooroopilly and Riverview in Queensland, and Bexley and Goulburn in New South Wales.
Survivor witnesses gave evidence they were dragged from their beds and raped by Salvation Army officers, forced to have sex with other boys in the home and put in cages or paraded around the ground as punishment for minor offences.
"After the lights went out 'round 7:00pm every night, Lieutenant Spratt would come out of the room in the dark so no one would see what he was doing. Whenever I heard his door open, I thought to myself, 'I hope he's not coming to my bed'.
"When I heard him go into someone else's bed I felt relieved that he had left me alone for the night …
"I tried to explain to the new boys, when the Salvation Army officers were not watching me, to let them do what they wanted to do to you, because if you don't you're going to have to cop something that you don't want." — Survivor witness FP, January 29 2014. Listen to his full story here.
The Commission was told boys at the Bexley home in Sydney's south were "rented out" to strangers who sexually abused them and that a "network of paedophiles" had access boys in their dormitory.
"I was still wearing my shirt, which I kept trying to pull down over my genitals, but he kept pulling my shirt away. I was so upset I grabbed my pants and ran out of the room. I caught a train back to Bexley, and walked back to the home. By the time I arrived it was dark.
"Wilson was waiting for me, and he took me to his office. I tried to tell him what had happened, but he just kept saying to me, 'These are good people I sent you out to'.
"He then caned me about 18 times, and sent me to bed." — Witness FV, January 30 2014.
Senior Salvation Army officers conceded that in the past, the organisation did not have the policies and processes in place to protect children.
Commissioner James Condon told the Commission the organisation was no longer focused on protecting its reputation, but putting victims first.
Case study 33 looked at how the Salvos handled allegations of abuse in its Southern Territory and specifically at the Eden Park Boys' Home, South Australia; the Box Hill Boys' Home and the Bayswater Boys' Home in Victoria and The Salvation Army Boys' Home (also known as Hollywood Children's Village), at Nedlands, Western Australia.
One survivor witness gave evidence he was sexually abused at least 200 times by older boys and by a Salvation Army officer at the Eden Park Boys' Home.
The Royal Commission concluded that children in those homes felt afraid to report abuse, were powerless to resist the maltreatment, and that nothing was done to stop the staff and officers abusing the children.
In case study 10, the Commission scrutinised how the Salvos handled complaints from abuse survivors in its Eastern Territory between 1989 and 2014.
It heard the Salvation Army had failed to act on abuse complaints, concealed abuse and protected perpetrators, was reluctant to compensate victims or offered them only paltry sums and made some sign deeds of release which prevented them speaking publicly about their abuse.
The Commission heard one Major admitted sexually abusing a girl in 1989 but rose through the ranks of the organisation until his position was terminated in 2014.
The Anglican Church
Sexual abuse in a New South Wales orphanage between the 1940s and 80s, the covering up of abuse complaints in some of the nation's top private schools, and evidence from witnesses who fell victim to a paedophile ring operating in the Church of England Boys' Society (CEBS) were some of the matters considered by the commission in eight hearings into Anglican institutions.
Survivors of the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore NSW told the commission staff, clergy and residents had sexually abused children.
"We had no shoes. We had no clothes. I remember one time I must have sat at a table for about 10 hours as punishment because I wouldn't eat the food that they'd given me. Because if you threw up they would make you eat the vomit.
"There was the sexual abuse in the bell tower, and it was a favourite place because it was out of the way, no one would come there." — Witness CK, November 18 2013.
The dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane were all required to give evidence about their handling of abuse allegations in the CEBS.
"Between the ages of 10 and 14 I was groomed and abused while attending CEBS activities and camps. Initially my abuse occurred at the Parish of The Good Shepherd, Plympton, in South Australia. This abuse involved encouragement by CEBS leaders of sexual activity between boys under the stage in the church hall and on camps. I was also sexually abused in one-on-one contexts by at least one CEBS leader of the parish, and by Robert Brandenburg, the state CEBS commissioner." — Witness Mark King, February 2 2016.
On the handling of abuse complaints in the Anglican diocese of Newcastle, the Royal Commission found systemic issues allowed a group of abusers to operate within the diocese for at least 30 years.
The report found Newcastle diocese Bishops Alfred Holland and Roger Herft showed a distinct lack of leadership, and alleged perpetrators were not called to account.
Some of the nation's top Anglican clergy were also called on by the inquiry to explain their role in handling abuse allegations.
In February 2016, the former Governor General of Australia and Archbishop of Brisbane Peter Hollingworth gave a personal apology to a survivor at the Royal Commission hearings in Hobart.
The victim had given evidence he'd told Dr Hollingworth that John Elliott had sexually abused him but Dr Hollingworth had allowed Elliott to continue as the Rector of Dalby for several years in the 1990s.
"I acknowledge unconditionally that my actions were misguided, wrong and a serious error of judgement and that I genuinely regret that.
"The fundamental mistake that I made was failing to understand the long term repercussions that arise from child sexual abuse. In that respect, I failed to make your needs my absolute first priority.
"To BYB and your family, I am deeply sorry that I was not sufficiently sensitive to your needs. In particular, I acknowledge that my actions must have heightened your distress and for this I am very sorry." — Peter Hollingworth, February 3 2016.
The former Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide, Ian George, also apologised to survivors at the Commission, saying he should have acted earlier in the case of the notorious paedophile Bob Brandenburg.
Child sexual abuse complaints within the Anglican Church
The Royal Commission asked the Anglican Church for data on child sexual abuse complaints received by dioceses between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 2015.
There were 1,082 people alleging incidents of abuse in 1,115 reported complaints made to 22 Anglican Church dioceses.
Of the complaints, 74 per cent involved alleged child sexual abuse that started in the period from 1950 to 1989 inclusive.
The largest proportion of first alleged incidents of abuse (25 per cent) occurred in the 1970s.
Where the gender of people making a complaint was recorded, 75 per cent were male and 25 per cent were female.
The average age of the child victim was 11 for both girls and boys.
The average time between the alleged abuse and the making of a complaint was 29 years.
Of the alleged abusers who were identified, 247 were ordained clergy; 285 were lay people and the status of 37 alleged perpetrators was unknown.
Ninety-four per cent of the alleged abusers were male, and 6 per cent were female.
Anglican dioceses had made total compensation payments of nearly $31 million with an average payment of about $67,000.
By the end of 2016, 500 private session attendees reported that they had been sexually abused as a child in an Anglican Church institution.
Most of those institutions weren't considered in a case study.
The Chair of the Royal Commission has made 84 referrals to police in all states and the Australian Capital Territory in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse involving Anglican Church institutions.
As a result there have been four prosecutions and 23 matters are currently being investigated.
The victim or the accused has died in seven cases and eight matters are pending.
Ultra-orthodox Jewish Yeshivah communities
The covering up of child abuse and the ostracism of victims in the ultra-orthodox Jewish Yeshivah communities in Melbourne and Bondi came under the commission's scrutiny in case study 22.
The commission heard that despite the fact there were several complaints of abuse made against perpetrators such as Shmuel David Cyprys, Rabbi David Kramer and Daniel Hayman, the men continued to be associated with the institutions.
The commission was told Yeshivah College in east St Kilda covered up the crimes of serial child abuser Cyprys, who was employed by the school.
"This discovery physically sickened me. I felt essential responsibility that maybe I should have done more in 2003, so that he could not be around children.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Yeshivah Centre and some of the rabbis were aware of David's penchant for young boys. Despite this, he was still a security guard. This gave David access to kids.
"In my opinion, the first thought of the leaders of Yeshivah Centre was to protect Yeshivah and its reputation — not me, or the other children." — Royal Commission witness "AVA", February 2 2015.
Whistleblower Manny Waks and his father Zephaniah Waks gave evidence they'd been bullied and intimidated by the Yeshivah community after going public about the abuse.
"I was in fact contacted by several considered community members, and they said to me that the anti-Semites are having a field day with my testimony and my publicity around this issue, and that if I cared about the community, I'd cease doing that straight away." — Manny Waks, February 2 2015.
The Commission investigated the Jewish concept of "Mesirah" in the hearings.
It heard some Jews believed they were forbidden by Jewish law from informing on another Jew to secular authorities like the police.
"I am appalled by it obviously, because the concept of 'Mesirah' really, you can become a death target. Taken at its literal meaning, you become potentially a target who is legitimate to be murdered, because you've gone and cooperated with the authorities. Now, I've never felt threatened for my life, but it does highlight the severity in which this concept is held." — Manny Waks.
The webcast of the Yeshivah communities drew one of the highest audiences of all the case study hearings and witnesses were no doubt in their closed communities, following proceedings keenly.
"Whatever happens here today is being viewed overseas and it's going to have ramifications overseas. I know that's not your brief but I can assure you that the findings here in relation to this community are going to have hopefully positive ramifications overseas as well. Because the communities are similar, they're tied together and it will not only be the Chabad communities that will be influenced, it will be the wider ultra-orthodox community in the world, especially the USA but Israel as well." — Zephaniah Waks, February 3 2015.
Catholic Church institutions
The shocking extent of child sexual abuse in Australia's Catholic institutions was finally revealed in the Royal Commission hearings.
During 15 public hearings focusing on the Catholic Church, 261 witnesses gave evidence.
"The accounts were depressingly similar. Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious (members) were moved.
"The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past.
"Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover ups. Priests and religious (members) were not properly dealt with and outcomes were often not representative of their crimes. Many children suffered and continue as adults to suffer from their experiences in some Catholic institutions." — Counsel Assisting Gail Furness, February 6 2017.
At the request of the Commission, the Catholic Church in Australia collated and provided data on the number of abuse complaints received by the Church.
It is believed the data is the first of its kind to be gathered by the Church anywhere in the world.
It showed that between January 1980 and February 2015, 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse made to 93 Catholic Church authorities.
These claims related to over 1,000 separate institutions.
Overall, 7 per cent of priests ministering in Australia between 1950 and 2010 were accused of child sexual abuse.
Of the people who made a claim, 78 per cent were male and 22 per cent were female.
There were 1,880 identified alleged perpetrators, 90 per cent were male and 10 per cent were female.
Counsel assisting described the evidence of survivors of four Christian Brothers institutions in Western Australia as "particularly harrowing".
"The worst experiences of my life were being raped and sexually abused and being physically and mentally assaulted by a number of brothers and priests at Bindoon. Not one, not two, but nine individual sexual perpetrators. I have never been able to get over this. Assault and battery were the norm, right from the start for me. As a child I quickly learnt that telling the truth only served to cause more pain and suffering. The truth was never valid in the eyes of the adults under whose care I was assigned." — Royal Commission witness VV, April 29, 2014.
The handling of abuse complaints in the archdioceses of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, Maitland-Newcastle, Toowoomba and Rockhampton were all examined by the Commission.
Catholic Schools and the Catholic Education Office's role in the Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Diocese of Toowoomba also came under scrutiny.
The hearings into the Diocese of Ballarat were among the longest held by the inquiry and drew the biggest webcast audience.
The commission concluded that a "catastrophic failure of leadership" saw hundreds of children abused in Victoria's west.
"I was first abused by a priest at St Joey's when I was around five years old. One day, I was cleaning the tile staircase when one of the nuns grabbed me by the ears and said, 'Father wants to cleanse you, twenty-nine'.
"I was thrown into one of the horror rooms where I was made to strip off and get into an old-fashioned small bath. A priest gave me a drink. After I finished the drink, I just blacked out. When I came to, I hurt like bloody hell. I was bleeding from the top of my back down to my shins. My genitals and my bottom were the worst and they hurt like they were on fire.
"I later discovered I had bite marks on my privates. When I woke up, the priest told me to get out and pushed me out the door where the nun, who had told me to go to the priest, was waiting for me. She was laughing at me and told me to get back to work." — Royal Commission witness Gordon Hill, May 7, 2015.
The Melbourne Archdiocese's redress scheme, the Melbourne Response, and the Towards Healing process, which applies in other Catholic dioceses, were examined in three hearings and were criticised for their lack of independence.
By February 2017, the Royal Commission chairman had referred 309 matters relating to abuse in Catholic Church institutions to police in all states and the ACT.
Twenty-seven prosecutions have begun as a result and 75 cases are being investigated.
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