The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concluded its investigations in 2017 after five years, 57 public hearings extending for 444 days and nearly 8,000 private sessions. The Commission found that many children were sexually abused in religious institutions in Australia and that the greatest number of alleged perpetrators and abused children were in Catholic institutions.
‘We now know that countless thousands of children have been sexually and physically abused in many institutions in Australia. In some of these institutions, multiple abusers have sexually abused children. We must accept that institutional child sexual abuse has been occurring for generations.’ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Preface p1
‘It is now apparent that across the decades, many of society’s institutions failed our children. Our child protection and criminal and civil justice systems let them down.
Although the primary responsibility for the sexual abuse of a child lies with the abuser and the institution of which they were part, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the problems faced by many people who have been abused are the responsibility of our entire society. Society’s values and mechanisms which were available to regulate and control aberrant behaviour failed.’ Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Preface p3
The power afforded to people in religious ministry and the misplaced trust of parents combined with aspects of the institutional culture, practices and attitudes created grave risks for children. Alleged perpetrators often continued to have access to children even when religious leaders knew they posed a danger. The Commission heard that alleged perpetrators were often transferred to other locations but were rarely reported to police.
‘The failure to understand that the sexual abuse of a child was a crime with profound impacts for the victim, and not a mere moral failure capable of correction by contrition and penance (a view expressed in the past by a number of religious leaders) is almost incomprehensible. It can only be explained by acknowledging that the culture of some religious institutions prioritised alleged perpetrators and institutional reputations over the safety of children.
In past generations, the trust placed by some parents and the broader community in institutions and their members meant that abusers were enabled and children’s interests were compromised.
The prevailing culture that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ resonated throughout residential care, religious institutions, schools and some family homes. Their complaints of abuse ignored and rejected, many children lost faith in adults and society’s institutions.
While we heard of child sexual abuse in institutions that spanned the past 90 years, it is not a problem from the past. Child sexual abuse in institutions continues today.’
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Preface p6
The Royal Commission highlighted the conclusion that child safety is the whole community’s responsibility. Practices within institutions have improved the response to allegations of abuse and now ensure that victims can report incidents in a safe and supportive environment.
The final reports of the Commission can be read or downloaded from the website: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/
STATEMENT FROM DOMINIC COLLEGE
Some religious and teaching staff abused students in their care, physically, sexually and mentally, at Dominic College and its predecessors, Boys’ Town and Savio College.
Any abuse of children is abhorrent and horrific.
The extent of the abuse across Australia has gradually become known thanks to the various government and legal inquiries. Some perpetrators are being punished and incarcerated. Many criminals have not, and never will be.
Many in our community have been reluctant to believe our leaders could prioritise the reputation of the Church over the welfare of our children and their families.
But it is clear this is what happened.
In today’s schools, there is far greater awareness of abuse, deeper knowledge of the conditions which allow abuse to occur and clear measures and mandatory processes to proactively prevent, intervene and report any suspicion of grooming or abuse of students.
We will continue to learn about historical abuse in our community and other Catholic schools and parishes, and we are committed to all initiatives that redress the terrible consequences to victims.
On behalf of all members of the Dominic College community, I express my deepest sorrow to any of our past students and their families who have been affected by child abuse. We extend our prayers and sincere hopes that you will find justice.
Ms Beth Gilligan,
Dominic College Principal
REPORTING HISTORICAL ABUSE AND REDRESS SCHEME
Any former students who wish to report abuse are encouraged and urged to go directly to the Tasmanian Police or the police in their state or territory to make a complaint and report what happened to them.
The Salesian Society [Vic] Inc, also known as Salesians of Don Bosco, was declared as a participating non-government institution in the National Redress Scheme by the Minister for Families and Social Services on 16 May 2019.
The National Redress Scheme, created in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, can provide:
People are encouraged to apply through the National Redress Website. Free and confidential Redress Support Services are available throughout the process. They can help explain the Scheme and who can apply.
For more information, visit www.nationalredress.gov.au or call the National Redress Scheme line on 1800 737 377
SALESIAN PROVINCIAL APOLOGY
As the Salesians of the Province of Mary Help of Christians of Australia and the Pacific, we are painfully aware that our personal and collective story has often been tainted by brokenness and sinfulness. In particular, we want to sincerely acknowledge the reality and scourge of the sexual abuse of minors that has visited us during our journey.
From the very beginning of our Salesian story, the beacon pointing out our identity and our mission has always been and will be the welfare, the education and the integral formation of young people, particularly the poor and abandoned ones. For us Salesians nothing is more precious and more sacred than the life of a young person. That will always be the absolute and unconditional raison d’etre for us. Consequently, any form of abuse is a denial of our vision and all we stand for, as well as a desecration of the very life of those we work for, depriving the most vulnerable of their dignity and of their future.
Unfortunately we have seriously betrayed the trust placed on us and denied our mission and our responsibilities, particularly at Salesian College Sunbury. Today we say ‘sorry’ unconditionally and wholeheartedly to the victims and their families for the deep hurt our wrongdoing has caused. As a province community, we wish to apologise most sincerely and ask for their forgiveness.
For our part, as followers of Saint John Bosco whom the Church has called ‘Father and Teacher of Youth’, we unashamedly admit to our wrongdoings perpetrated through all forms of abuse on so many innocent victims, and commit ourselves to ensure that such evil will never occur again in our province of Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji. While we apologise and ask for their forgiveness, we are firmly committed to continue our journey of support and compassion towards mutual healing and peace of heart and mind as the Lord has committed us to do.
Fr Greg Chambers sdb, Salesian Provincial Australia-Pacific Province, 8 December 2016 https://www.salesians.org.au/about-us/salesian-pro...