The report ‘Getting the National Redress Scheme right: An overdue step towards justice’ suggested the Scheme should be measured against three core principles:
1 the Scheme must be survivor-focussed and trauma-informed;
2 the Redress process must proceed on the basis of ‘do no further harm’ to the survivor; and
3 amendments to the Scheme must be subject to proper consultation with key survivor groups.
(This is an extract from the Chair’s Foreword of First Interim Report of the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme (April 2020). A PDF of it should be made available in our Library + can be retrieved from https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/reportjnt/024473/toc_pdf/FirstInterimReportoftheJointSelectCommitteeonImplementationoftheNationalRedressSchemeApril2020.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf. For further explanation, the Introduction text is reposted as follows –
Background to the interim report
1.1The Joint Select Committee (Committee) was formed to inquire into the Australian Government policy, program and legal response to the redress related recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including the establishment and operation of the Commonwealth Redress Scheme and ongoing support of survivors. 1.2The Committee is required to table its final report in May 2022.1.3Section 192 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (the Act) provides that the relevant Minister must conduct a review of the National Redress Scheme (NRS) as soon as possible after the second anniversary of NRS operation. The Committee notes that the NRS commenced 1 July 2018, and as such, the review must commence prior to 30 June 2020. 1.4Early in its deliberations, the Committee resolved that its first priority should be to review the early experience of survivors with the NRS and use their evidence to identify priority issues that should be addressed by the second anniversary review. 1.5It is the Committee’s expectation that the Minister for Families and Social Services and the Department of Social Services (DSS) accept the findings in this interim report and ensure that the matters identified are incorporated into the terms of reference and design of the second anniversary review as a matter of priority.
Objectives and Scope1.6On 2 April 2020, the Committee announced that it would table an interim report into the implementation of the NRS to reflect the evidence received so far by the Committee.11.7It remains the Committee’s intention that this report will inform the work and priorities of the legislated second anniversary review of the NRS which is to commence after 30 June 2020.1.8The Committee has resolved to finalise a second interim report before tabling its final report in May 2022.
1.9On 13 February 2020, the Committee issued a media release announcing initial public hearing program. Due to matters associated with COVID-19 on 16 March 2020, a separate media release was published noting the hearing program would continue as advised via teleconference.1.10Since the establishment of the Committee, six public hearings have been held. Transcripts can be found on the Committee website and a list of witnesses that appeared is at Appendix A.1.11The Committee invited submissions to be received by 29 May 2020, noting that submissions could be received after that date. The Committee also informed people that confidential and name withheld submissions would also be received. To date the Committee has received 20 submissions, which are listed at Appendix B.
1.12Chapter 1 details the scope of the activities conducted to undertake the interim report and includes discussion of the Committees aims for the interim report. 1.13Chapter 2 provides a background to the development of the NRS, and discusses how the government has implemented the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. Consideration of previous parliamentary committee findings is also included in this section. 1.14Chapter 3 examines the NRS application process. The three components of an offer of redress including monetary payment, counselling services and direct personal responses are also examined.1.15Chapter 4 considers NRS participation and examines factors that may be influencing a survivor’s decision on whether to apply for redress through the NRS. The number and rate of institutions joining the NRS is also discussed. 1.16Chapter 5 discusses the appropriateness of funder of last resort provisions within the Act.1.17Chapter 6 outlines areas that the Committee believe need to be examined in order to maximise the opportunities of the second anniversary review to deliver improved survivor experiences and outcomes from the NRS.1.18Throughout the interim report the Committee has included quotes that refer to the NRS as the scheme or redress scheme. The Committee has not amended these references.1.19Two appendices accompany this report and provide details on submissions received and a list of witnesses who appeared before the Committee. 1.20A copy of this report, transcripts of hearings and submissions received are available on the Committee’s website at www.aph.gov.au/redress.
- 1All Committee media releases are available at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/National_Redress_Scheme/NationalRedressScheme/Media_Releases
Following the recent 4corners Airing of ‘Boys Club’ On 17 Feb 2020, various Headlines have been released:
- Elite school that backed sex pest teacher instead of his victim orders staff to escort students on public transport over fears for their safety after damning TV exposé (DailyMail)
- St Kevin’s headmaster Stephen Russell resigns over character reference for paedophile (The Guardian)
- St Kevin’s College headmaster resigns, dean of sport stood down following grooming scandal (ABC News)
Grooming has also appeared amongst numerous Journalist Publications, continuing the traditional reluctance to acceptance of genuine alterations required following the Final Report of the 13-17 #CARC. This Final Report is available for viewing at the URL: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/final-report
To those who’ve kept up-to-date with some of the BBC situations (Buchanan, Golding, Bradley and Lloyd) may recognise some similarities (parallels); Those past Students / ‘Old Boys’ (sorry if offended) reminded of other Elite Schools mentioned during ‘Boys Club’; Parents of current and past BBC enrolments; most importantly surviving families of Deceased / Suicided / Drug-effected / Care-facilitated BBC Graduates / Past-enrolled : Your losses are shared by many others! You’re definitely not alone, with facilities of Compensation/Redress, Public Apologies and Counselling available to ALL.
By Debbie Cuthbertson, Simone Fox Koob, Farrah Tomazin and Chris Vedelago
February 16, 2020 — 12.00am
“Jesus is coming to get you.”
That was the warning Lionel (not his real name) alleges Christian Brother Rex Francis Elmer gave in an attempt to silence him after he sexually assaulted him at a Melbourne orphanage in the 1970s.
The words rang in the boy’s ears long after.
Elmer “kissed me on the forehead and said well done” after molesting him, Lionel said.
“He then told me not to tell anyone. He said to me, if you tell anyone, Jesus would come down from heaven and take me away and you will not see your family or friends ever again,” he told police.
“I was scared and really believed what he had said, that Jesus would take me away if I said anything. I was an altar boy and I believed this.
“The word ‘Jesus’ was ringing in my ears.”
The assaults continued, as did the warnings, for more than a year, Lionel said. It was a vicious circle.
“This sort of incident happened at least two to three times a week,” Lionel said in his witness statement to police. “The same sort of thing. I would piss the bed scared at night that [Elmer] would come to me. I was petrified of him. I couldn’t tell anyone because I was scared of getting a flogging and being taken away by Jesus.”
Another boy who had complained about being abused by Elmer was flogged with a cane by another brother then removed from the St Vincent de Paul Boys’ Home, Lionel said.
“He dobbed Elmer in for doing something sexual to him. It was two days later that this guy who got hit and dobbed got taken from the home.”
He said he told another boy at the home about the abuse. That boy replied that Elmer had also sexually assaulted him. “We were both scared that Jesus would come to take us,” Lionel said. “This is what we thought happened to [the boy who left].”
Lionel said he also confided in a nun from a nearby convent. “I told her what Elmer had been doing to me. She said ‘Darling, please do not say a word to anyone, I will fix this for you’.”
Soon after he confessed to her, Lionel alleges, Elmer and two other brothers brutally beat him, including with a cane, in an assault that left him bleeding from his behind and bedridden for more than a week.
While he was still recovering, Lionel said, Elmer abused him again. He punched the boy repeatedly, giving him a black eye and bloody nose after the boy vomited on the brother during the assault.
When I spewed, he punched me in the face with a clenched fist … three or four times. I couldn’t see out of my left eye for a few days until the swelling went down. He said to me ‘Jesus is coming to get you’. This is the last time that I ever saw Elmer.”
In mid-1976, Elmer suddenly left St Vincent’s. “I don’t know what happened to Elmer, but he was gone from the home,” Lionel told police.
Lionel, now aged 59, said of the ongoing effect of his abuse: “I get teary talking about this but I have learnt to deal with it. It is always in my mind and it always hurts me.”
On Monday, Elmer pleaded guilty in the County Court to the indecent assault of two other complainants, also from St Vincent’s, in the 1970s, after which prosecutors did not proceed with charges related to Lionel’s accusations. That meant that Lionel’s witness statement was never tendered and Elmer never faced his allegations.
Court documents show the 75-year-old was charged in 2018 with 19 counts of indecent assault and one of false imprisonment in relation to three victims during the 1970s.
The first complainant, who had been in state care since infancy, told police Elmer repeatedly abused him between the ages of 11 and 13, usually while he was sleeping in a dormitory.
He said the first assault occurred when Elmer threw off his bed covers, demanded he do as he was told, and put his hand down the boy’s pyjama pants. The assault, however, was interrupted. “Someone has approached the bed as he was being assaulted by the accused, who then fled,” according to the police brief of evidence.
“The complainant was summoned to the office of the now deceased Brother in charge, Brother Carey … Shortly thereafter the complainant recalls being sexually abused by the accused on many occasions.”
The second complainant, who came to the orphanage aged seven after his parents died, was sexually abused by Elmer repeatedly between the ages of nine and 11.
On one occasion Elmer led the boy, who had been playing in the grounds of the home after school, upstairs into his private bedroom at the end of a dormitory.
Elmer produced a large book with pictures of human anatomy and made the boy sit on his knee while the brother asked him to name various body parts, including male genitalia, and masturbated against the boy’s back during the 20-minute assault.
As dormitory master at St Vincent’s, Elmer was responsible for up to 40 children at a time, aged between seven and 14.
The most senior Christian Brothers officials in Victoria knew in mid-1976, when they removed Elmer from the orphanage, that he had abused boys there.
Later that year they made Elmer principal of St Joseph’s, a Catholic boys primary school in Warrnambool.
Elmer was in charge of the school from 1976-81. He worked in the town alongside several other notorious paedophile clerics including priests Paul David Ryan and Robert Claffey, and fellow Christian Brother Edward Dowlan (all since jailed for child sexual assault).
Elmer left Warrnambool after more complaints about his behaviour at St Vincent’s reached his superiors. In 1988 he reappeared, in an article from a small Tasmanian newspaper called Western Tiers, published in his home town of Deloraine.
“Brother Rex Elmer will be spending Christmas at home with his mother … and family before leaving to go to Africa to set up a Mission School at Arushia [sic] in Tanzania with two other Christian Brothers,” the newspaper reported proudly on page 3.
“Rex was a pupil at Our Lady of Mercy College and St Patrick’s [College] and has been teaching at various schools, including Warrnambool in Victoria. He is hoping to see old school friends while at home and we all wish him well in the future.”
The school Elmer helped found in northern Tanzania is now run by the Congregation of Christian Brothers East Africa District and has more than 1300 students.
Elmer left the school in 1993 after more complaints surfaced, and was sent by his order to the United States for counselling at the St Luke Institute for paedophile Catholic clergy in Maryland.
He was charged In 1997 with 69 counts. He was convicted the next year of 12 counts: one charge of indecent assault against each of the 12 boys. The judge sentenced him to five years in prison with a minimum of three years and four months.
At his sentencing, Judge Thomas Neesham described Elmer, then 53, as a man of God who had indulged in “depraved self-gratification”, The Age reported at the time.
“Each of your victims was a small boy in your care. Each was an inmate,” he said. The boys, many of them orphans or wards of the state, were aged between eight and 12.
“They were helpless,” Judge Neesham said. “Who could they tell, who would believe them?
“All your victims wear deep emotional scars to this day as is brought out by their victim impact statements,” he said. “As a teacher and a man of God, how could you not have had an inkling of the devastation to your victims’ faith … by your act of misbehaviour.
“Your victims will have to live in the misery that you inflicted upon them … You will have to live with the disgrace that you brought on yourself and your family.”
Elmer had been living in a Christian Brothers home in Brunswick at the time of his first conviction and was still working for the order in an administrative role. In 2002, after his release from prison, he was placed him on “restricted ministry”.
He now resides in a property owned by the order in the same suburb. His bail was extended following his guilty plea this week until his sentencing in July.
“The accused is currently retired and resides within the Christian Brothers Community,” a police brief from his current case states.
The order has received 22 claims for redress from people who allege Elmer sexually abused them as children, according to documents it provided to Austalia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which reported its findings in 2017.
Those claims all related to accusations of multiple assaults alleged to have occurred between 1969 and 1985 – from when Elmer was a novitiate (a Christian Brother in training) to the years when he worked in South Melbourne and Warrnambool, mainly during his time at St Vincent’s.
The documents also show the order knew that a number of victims had alleged that other clergy had participated in the abuse by Elmer.
Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) refused to cover the Christian Brothers in relation to any claims of abuse by Elmer after 1976, ruling the order – including its most senior cleric, then provincial Brother Patrick Naughtin – had “prior knowledge” of his crimes.
“Whilst the Visitation was in progress [13/06/1976], a Child Welfare Office reported to Brother [redacted] Acting Superior that Rex had been interfering with little boys; this was true and it had been attended to by the Provincial,” said a CCI document submitted to the royal commission.
In a letter dated June 20, 1976, Naughtin wrote to the acting superior of the orphanage: “Thank you very much for the report on the situation which developed … in connection with Br Elmer. It is indeed a serious and most unfortunate state of affairs and I am grateful for your bringing it to my attention so promptly.”
In his letter, Naughtin (who died in 2010) expressed concern for Elmer’s reputation, not for the welfare of the children he had abused. He also referenced the illegality of Elmer’s actions but did not report him to authorities.
“I have interviewed Br Elmer and discussed this position with him. He is clearly aware of the serious nature of his actions and I took pains to point out his legal and moral obligations in the matter.
“It seems to me extremely unlikely that there will be any recurrence of what had happened … It would seem to me best at this stage not to transfer Brother … immediately, though I would propose to announce his change next August – the usual time for releasing details of staffing for the following year.
“In coming to this decision I have been guided by the Brother’s assurance for the future, by his excellent record to date and by consideration for his reputation which would undoubtedly be harmed by a sudden transfer at this time.”
When Elmer left St Vincent’s he was replaced by Edward ‘Ted’ Dowlan, now one of the most notorious paedophile clerics in Victoria. They later worked together at St Joseph’s in Warrnambool.
A 1996 letter from an unnamed Christian Brother was submitted to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2013 into the handling of child abuse by institutions, including religious orders. It sheds light on how widespread the abuse was at St Vincent’s, and how determined the church was to dismiss it.
“I accepted with good faith the sudden departure of Brother Elmer from the school and the appointment of Brother Dowlan to fill his position,” the letter reads. “Indeed, I spent many extra hours, which I could ill afford, assisting Brother Dowlan to understand the nature and behaviours of the boys and the teachers.
“As you are probably aware, many of St Vincent’s residents had been sexually abused, and often displayed overt and outrageous sexualised behaviour. Furthermore, they expected or requested that this behaviour be reciprocated by the adults in their lives. A major part of our endeavours at St Vincent’s was getting these boys to a point where they would expect not to be abused. Now I find that all of this work could have been compromised by the presence of a man like Brother Dowlan …
“I take note of your congregation’s position that the brothers were unaware of Brother Dowlan’s tendencies and activities. I cannot accept this as a reasonable position. I cannot believe that the number of allegations against this man could have been kept from his various communities’ and the congregation’s superiors. I find that expecting the public to believe this is preposterous. I do not believe this plea of ignorance.”
St Vincent’s orphanage closed in 1997. It was home to more than 6000 boys over 140 years.
Information provided by the Catholic Church to the royal commission showed it had received 114 claims of sexual abuse at the home, the highest number of any Catholic institution in Victoria.
The Christian Brothers declined to answer The Age’s questions about Elmer, citing “ongoing legal proceedings”.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.
Whether an entry is made ‘Unknown’ (Anonymous), ‘made-up’ (Pseudonym) or actual name (relations): everyone is invited to read over other comments, add their own or even send us your message – which we’ll repost (Anonymously). Particularly over this weekend, is a great chance to read of others who’ve gone through similar horrors that you know of!
You’re not alone.
Sometimes people come to our website because they are looking for personal help.
If someone asked you right now if you are having thoughts of suicide, what would your honest answer be?
If your answer is ‘yes’, this is undoubtedly a very difficult time for you. You don’t need to go through this alone. Help is available.
It is not uncommon for men who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual assault to have to deal with suicidal thoughts. An experience of child sexual abuse or sexual assault can have men feeling distressed and overwhelmed both at the time and at stressful times in the future. If suicidal thoughts are unchallenged they can convince a man that because he is doing it tough now it will always be like this. If there is time to talk about suicidal thoughts they can provide a clue to what a man holds dear, about certain connections he values and the dreams and aspirations he has for life. In order for such conversation to occur it is first important to make sure you are safe now.
If you think you might harm yourself call for help immediately
- Reach out to someone you trust and ask for help. Tell them honestly how you feel, including your thoughts of suicide.
- Call 000 (police, ambulance, fire) or
- Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or
- Go, or have someone take you to your local hospital emergency department.
It is important to understand suicidal thoughts
I felt like shit, like there was no way out. It wasn’t like my first thought but it was there in the background.
Remember that thoughts about suicide are just that – thoughts. You don’t need to act on them. They won’t last for ever, and often they pass very quickly. Many people who have had serious thoughts of suicide have said that they felt completely different only hours later. It is common to feel overwhelmed and distressed during difficult times or when it seems that things will never improve.
Things you can do to keep yourself safe
- Seek help early. Talk to a family member or friend, see your local doctor, or ring a telephone counselling service.
- Postpone any decision to end your life. Many people find that if they postpone big decisions for just 24 hours, things improve, they feel better able to cope and they find the support they need.
- Talk to someone. Find someone you can trust to talk to: family, friends, a colleague, teacher or minister. 24-hour telephone counselling lines allow you to talk anonymously to a trained counsellor any time of the day or night.
- Avoid being alone (especially at night). Stay with a family member or friend or have someone stay with you until your thoughts of suicide decrease.
- Develop a safety plan. Come up with a plan that you can put into action at any time, for example have a friend or family member agree that you will call them when you are feeling overwhelmed or upset.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol when you are feeling down. Many drugs are depressants and can make you feel worse, they don’t help to solve problems and can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
- Set yourself small goals to help you move forward and feel in control. Set goals even on an hour-by-hour or day-by-day basis – write them down and cross them off as you achieve them.
- Write down your feelings. You might keep a journal, write poetry or simply jot down your feelings. This can help you to understand yourself better and help you to think about alternative solutions to problems.
- Stay healthy. try to get enough exercise and eat well – Exercising can help you to feel better by releasing hormones (endorphins) into your brain. Eating well will help you to feel energetic and better able to manage difficult life events.
- See your local doctor or a specialist to discuss support or treatment. Discuss your suicidal thoughts and feelings with your doctor, talk about ways to keep yourself safe, and make sure you receive the best treatment and care.
- See a mental health professional. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and other health professionals are trained to deal with issues relating to suicide, mental illness and well being. You can find them in the Yellow Pages or visit your GP or contact a crisis line for information.
Thoughts of suicide occur to many people and for a range of reasons. The most important thing to remember is that help is available. Talking to someone is a good place to start, even though it may seem difficult. Tell someone today!
Find help in your local area
If you’re feeling suicidal, getting help early can help you cope with the situation and avoid things getting worse. After you get over a crisis, you need to do all you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. There are a number of sources of support in your local area. If the first place or person you contact can’t help, or doesn’t meet your needs, try another.
Where to get help
Lifeline has centres all around Australia. Check their website for the centre closest to you, and for resources and information related to suicide prevention: www.lifeline.org.au or www.justlook.org.au.
General practitioner A GP can refer you for a Mental Health Care Plan. Look for one in the Yellow Pages, or contact your local community health centre.
Community Health CentresThese are listed in the White Pages.
PsychiatristLook in the Yellow Pages, or ask a referring organisation such as Lifeline’s Just Ask. To claim the Medicare rebate, you need a letter of referral from a GP.
PsychologistYou can find these through your GP, community health centre, the Yellow Pages or the Australian Psychological Society (APS). The APS provides a referral service on 1800 333 497 or visit their website at www.psychology.org.au.
Counsellors and psychotherapistsYou can find these through your GP, community health centre, or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia Inc (PACFA). PACFA have a national register of individual counsellors and psychotherapists available to the public at www.pacfa.org.au.
Veterans Counselling Service
A mental health website for young people up to age 25: www.headspace.org.au
Gay and Lesbian Counselling and Community Services of Australia provides information and links to counselling services for gay and lesbian people. Telephone: 1800 18 45 27 or see the website for numbers in your state/territory, www.glccs.org.au
Who to call
For immediate support, when your life may be in danger, ring 000 or go to your local hospital emergency department.
National 24 Hour crisis telephone counselling services
Lifeline 13 11 14
Salvo Care Line1300 36 36 22
Kids Help Line1800 55 1800
Crisis Counselling Service1300 363 622
Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team1800 629 354
New South Wales
Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention1300 363 622
Salvo Care Line02 9331 6000
Crisis Line Northern Territory1800 019 116
Mental Health Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service13 14 65
Samaritans Lifelink – country1300 364 566
Samaritans Lifelink – metro03 6331 3355
Suicide Help Line Victoria1300 651 251
Note: Many of these services also offer interpreter services for those people who speak English as a second language (ESL).
Acknowledgement: This page was created with reference to the “Living is for everyone” publication Promoting good practice in suicide prevention: Activities targeting men produced by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: 2008.
Emotional abuse is an underrated form of abuse, but no less damaging for that.
The warning signs of emotional abuse include the following :
- A child who exhibits a lack of attachment to the parent.
- A child who is delayed in physical or emotional development, unrelated to an identifiable medical or psychological condition.
- A child who is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children) or inappropriately infantile (constantly rocking or head-banging, for example).
- A child who exhibits behavioral extremes (acute passivity or serious aggression; demanding behavior or abject compliance).
- A child who attempts suicide.
The parent who rejects his/her child will constantly blame, belittle, or berate that child. The parent unconcerned about his/her child’s well-being may refuse offers of help for that child’s school problems.
On the other hand, a parent can be so self-involved that his/her child becomes little more than a pawn for manipulation.
 Prevent Child Abuse America, “Recognizing Child Abuse: What Parents Should Know”, https://preventchildabuse.org/resource/recognizing-child-abuse-what-parents-should-know/.
This series will continue next week with Part 3 – Physical Abuse
A culture of “power, complicity and coercion” allowed endemic sexual abuse to flourish for decades at one of Britain’s leading public schools, an inquiry has found.
St Paul’s School, in Barnes, southwest London, failed to challenge paedophile teachers because “maintaining the reputation of the organisation” was a higher priority than “any consideration of the impact their behaviour had on pupils”.
A serious case review was ordered in 2017 after five former teachers at St Paul’s and its junior school, formerly known as Colet Court, were found guilty of sex offences against boys or the possession of child abuse images.
The convictions followed a police inquiry prompted in 2014 by a series of articles in The Times in which former pupils made allegations against staff who…
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January 14 2020, 12:01am, The Times
Vigilance, Part 1 – Neglect
Image courtesy of NSPCC