Nazareth House, Wynnum: (Or: Nun on the Run)


The Poor Sisters of Nazareth ran many Orphanages around the world, all called Nazareth House. Their crimes at their Wynnum facility, at the Brisbane suburb of Wynnum, were reported in the late 1980s by a very brave woman, “Bobby”. [Her last name is not given because of some vicious attacks on her character – see, for example, the ref. below].

There were the usual terrible incidents of all forms of abuse. There were all of the usual attempts to silence victims, including legal threats. There were the usual apologies to victims for having “unhappy memories” of Nazareth House. There were the usual pathetic payments to victims. There were, however, some new twists in the usual attempts to avoid culpability.

When the media tried to contact the main perpetrator, Sister Brendan Mary, her order refused to reveal her whereabouts. As the order’s Australian head said, “I just don’t think it’s fair to be telling people where she is at this stage”. Eventually, the Sister was tracked to Wellington in New Zealand by the “60 Minutes” television program last night, but she refused comment. In New Zealand, where she was the local head of the Order, she was involved in negotiations with victims at the Nazareth House there, but her order saw no problem with her involvement

Sister Brendan Mary is very good at hiding. At one stage, in a Supreme Court disposition relating to her alleged offences, her Order claimed she was deceased. It mentioned “….. due to the death of Sister Bernard Mary”. Sr Clare Breen (pictured above, right), the Order’s Australian head, denied any knowledge of the court document, adding “that’s not something we would do.”

A newspaper claimed that she was not dead, but living in the U.K. where she was working as the overall head of the Order. The victims’ lawyer has claimed that police said it would be too difficult to extradite her back to Australia. When confronted with the reality of Sr. Brendan Mary’s continuing existence, her Order claimed that the fib “would have been a simple mistake. It was most definitely an administrative ….. drafting error ….. a genuine mistake.” Still, they would not reveal the location of her, then, place of existence, other than to say that “she was visiting an ill family member.”

The Order’s “apology” reads that “It is a matter of great regret that in the course of Nazareth House’s long history, there were some things done that should not have been done and some actions that have caused pain and unhappiness.” They claim this is not an admission of liability or truth of the claims, and that they would “vigorously” defend themselves if ever anyone managed to get a case before a court. As tomorrow’s posting will show, they are safe from court action (though not necessarily from Royal Commission action).

Much has been written, thanks to Bobby’s activities, about the Nazareth Houses. Bruce Grundy has published a report. Ann Thompson has written an account of the New Zealand facility, called “Say Sorry – A Harrowing Childhood in Catholic Orphanages”. Mrs Reilly has written of the U.K. situation in “Suffer the Little Children” []. They receive a mention in Joanna Penglase’s book, “Orphans of the Living: Growing up in care in Twentieth-century Australia”.

[Postscript: The Poor Sisters of Nazareth have re-branded by dropping the “poor” part of their title, abandoning the orphanage business and entering the aged-care and HIV-Aids care businesses. They are estimated to be now worth over $300 million.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Other Nazareth Houses

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

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