Justice for Victims in Bathurst

Last night in Bathurst we hosted a meeting with the local community to address their concerns about the lack of a Royal Commission hearing in the area, especially as this relates to the sexual abuse of boys at St Stanislaus College.

There was strong agreement at the meeting that the Church and school leadership has an obligation to answer the community, and a Royal Commission hearing is an important step towards achieving this.

I have today written to the Royal Commission asking them to conduct public hearings and a case study into what happened in Bathurst, with a particular focus on St Stanislaus. If they do not agree with this we have asked them to provide the community with clear reasons for this. The community, but especially the victims, survivors and their families deserve answers.

We will also put this matter on the record in Parliament when the House next sits. There has been too much silence around this for too long.

It’s not enough to simply say that the police are investigating this. There has already been a 9 year delay in criminal cases coming on for hearing and this, together with repeated court non-publication orders, means the truth can’t come out. Suppression orders makes it far harder for survivors of abuse to find a sense of solidarity and support from their community.

When criminal cases take cases take up to 10 years to go through the courts, this has serious impacts on the victim’s wellbeing. How this is allowed to happen is something is also worthy of inquiry by the Royal Commission.

St Stanislaus have announced that they will issue an apology to victims in June this year. However we discovered that in announcing this they have not spoken to victims, meaning for many survivors and their families it raises more issues than it addresses.

A survivor of abuse at St Stanislaus Damien told us that he intentionally had the suppression order lifted in relation to his matter so that he could speak publicly about his case. He reported that even with his name and information publicly available no one from St Stanislaus has contacted him to see if he was ok, or if there was anything they could do to help.

It is clear that the response from the school and the church has left much to be desired.

We would like to thank local Member for Orange Philip Donato for providing a supporting statement for the community and look forward to working with him on this issue.

This was just the first meeting we will host in this area. We will return in early May for another community meeting, so watch this space, or please feel free to email the office on david.shoebridge@parliament.nsw.gov.au if you’d like us to send you the invitation for this.

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