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Rockhampton's shock number of abusive priests revealed

WHEN Margaret Campbell heard 11.4% of priests from the Diocese of Rockhampton in the 1960s had claims of sexual abuse against them during the span of their career, she couldn't believe it.

It's not that the high figure came as a surprise to her, it's that she believes the figure is not high enough.

Ms Campbell, who was sexually abused throughout the seven years she spent at the Neerkol Orphanage on the outskirts of Rockhampton in the 1960s, is this week sitting in on the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse taking place in Sydney.

Yesterday, a new report was released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse showing the extent of child sexual abuse within the Diocese of Rockhampton.

According to the report, which documents claims of abuse between 1950 and 2009, 11.4% of priests from the Diocese of Rockhampton in the 1960s had claims of sexual abuse against them during the span of their career.

These figures have reduced over the decades to 8.6% in the 1970s; 7.6% in the 1980s and 3.6% in the 1990s.

The report also showed overall, 8% of priests from the Diocese of Rockhampton had had a claim of sexual abuse made against them between 1950 and 2009.

Ms Campbell, who was a witness during the Royal Commission's Case 26 hearing in Rockhampton in April 2015, claimed the figures in the report were incorrect.

"The figures are absolutely wrong, they're totally wrong. They have not got the full facts,” Ms Campbell said.

"A lot of victims never came forward in that time because they were either dead or they did not trust the Royal Commission after what was done to them before.

"A lot of them never came forward and will never come forward because of that. Looking at it through our eyes the Royal Commission have it wrong. They are only going on what they have been told.”

Ms Campbell said many people who had been sexually abused by priests as children, including quite a few from Rockhampton, were at the Royal Commission hearing in Sydney.

READ: Neerkol horrors revealed in Royal Commission hearing.

She said many of those victims shared her sentiments regarding the report.

"There are a lot of people here that are very upset about the report and what has happened,” Ms Campbell said.

"If it was someone that wasn't a Catholic priest they would be taken before the courts and sent to jail. It's never going to change while they are protecting them.”

During the 2000s 1.3% of priests from the Diocese of Rockhampton had had claims of sexual abuse made against them at some point during their career.

Nearly 2,000 Catholic Church figures have been identified as perpetrators of abuse in the report.

Ms Campbell said it was alarming that during the 2000s, priests who had sexually abused children were still practicing.

"It's totally disturbing and disgusting that there were still priests doing this. I am shocked about it all,” she said.

Gabrielle Short, who was sexually abused during her time at various orphanages across Australia as a child, is also at the Royal Commission hearing this week.

Ms Short said victims simply want authorities to stop talking and take action.

"What we want is for them to stop the rot, stop the talk and take action. We want action. Actions speak louder than words,” Ms Short said.

"We want justice for everybody. What's happening is they are not jailing them. They are getting them off.

"They will continue until they stand these people down, unless they sack them from their jobs, the culture will never change.”

The Morning Bulletin has sought comment from the Diocese of Rockhampton.



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