Legal win for abuse survivor against the Anglican Church could assist other Queensland survivors

31 August 2021
Leading abuse law firm Maurice Blackburn says a landmark Court of Appeal win for a sexual abuse survivor against the Anglican Diocese of Rockhampton could significantly benefit many abuse survivors across the state.

Under the decision handed down this month, the Diocese will be required to disclose all complaints from former residents of the St George’s Home for Children about prior sexual abuse by an alleged perpetrator – regardless of when the complaints were received.

The Diocese had previously refused to hand over any complaints about the alleged perpetrator known as Reverend M, saying they had received no complaints of abuse about him before he left his position at the Home.

Reverend M was superintendent at the Home between December 1963 and December 1974. The first complaint received by the Diocese from any former resident of the Home about Reverend M was in 1999, more than 20 years after his retirement.

Maurice Blackburn special counsel Jed McNamara said the Court of Appeal win was good news not just for his client who brought the appeal, but for many other survivors of institutional abuse in Queensland.

“We know it can take decades for a survivor of child abuse to disclose what happened to them,” Mr McNamara said.

“Any complaints of prior sexual abuse by other residents of the institution are important, no matter when they are made, as they can reveal what conditions at the institution allowed the abuse to occur.

“These other complaints can also reveal that the institution may have known, or should have known, about an alleged perpetrator at the time the abuse took place.

“This decision means that institutions like the Anglican Church will no longer be able to keep complaints of abuse secret, just because they were received after the alleged perpetrator left their job.”

Maurice Blackburn brought the appeal on behalf of a client, known as SDA, who says he was abused by Reverend M and a priest known as Father P while he was living at the St George’s Home for Children from 1963 to 1975.

SDA’s claim is that the Diocese was negligent because it failed to take steps that were reasonably necessary to protect himself – and other residents – from a risk of sexual abuse when the Diocese knew or should have known there was such a risk

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