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Damning report on conduct of the Neerkol authorities

NEERKOL INJUSTICES: A Sisters of Mercy nun watches over the children at Neerkol Orphanage. Yesterday, a submissions report by Sophie David SC was released to the public.
NEERKOL INJUSTICES: A Sisters of Mercy nun watches over the children at Neerkol Orphanage. Yesterday, a submissions report by Sophie David SC was released to the public. Contributed Rokneerkol

THE Royal Commission Inquiry has released a damning report relating to the misconduct of government and Catholic Church authorities in the wake of the Neerkol Orphanage hearings in April.

Earlier this year, the Royal Commission panel heard from 13 witnesses, who were former residents at the orphanage between the 1940s and the 1970s, about their experiences of physical and sexual abuse by former employees, Catholic priests and Sisters of Mercy nuns.

Senior counsel assisting the Royal Commission Sophie David SC made her submissions in a report that was made public yesterday.

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In it she stated every complaint received about a child at Neerkol Orphanage during its time of operation, and the punishment inflicted, was to be recorded in a punishment book.

The book was required to be produced to the director or officer of the Children's Services Department on demand.

Ms David's submissions report stated neither the Sisters of Mercy nor the State Government of Queensland produced copies of the punishment books from the orphanage.

Furthermore, she said in her submission that former Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan supported pedophile priest Father Reginald Durham after he was charged with criminal offences by authorising the Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton to pay his legal costs.

 

Ms David stated she believed Bishop Heenan's written response to the Ministerial Statement in 1996, when he referred to the allegations of sexual and physical abuse as "scurrilous" and "scandalous", was dishonest.

She stated that was because Bishop Heenan, at the time, knew of and believed the truthfulness of allegations of sexual abuse made by witnesses AVC, AVB, David Owen, AVQ and AVP.

"Some children at the orphanage did not report the sexual abuse to anyone at the time it was occurring," she said.

"They had little or no opportunity to speak with the departmental inspectors, they did not think they would be believed and they were frightened of reprisals from the Sisters of Mercy or Neerkol staff if they complained of sexual and physical abuse."

Bishop Heenan, who is based on the Sunshine Coast, yesterday declined to comment on the report.

The Royal Commission will now review Ms David's submissions. They will be considered for the commission's recommendations report to the Federal Government in 2017.

Topics:  child sex abuse, neerkol, neerkol inquiry, neerkol orphanage



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