St. Vincent’s Orphanage, Melbourne (Or: Moved from Orphanage to Orphanage)


St. Vincent’s Orphanage in South Melbourne had serious links to the St. Augustine’s Orphanage in Geelong (see yesterday’s posting). Most people are familiar with the tactic of moving offending clergy from parish to parish when things became too hot for them, but a similar thing happened with offending at orphanages. Brothers have “served” at more than one orphanage.

For example, Brother Wilfred Eastmure’s career in the Christian Brothers included placements at St Augustine’s orphanage, Geelong, in 1944-45 and 1954-62 then at St Vincent’s orphanage, South Melbourne, in the early 1960s. Brother Thomas McGee not only worked at St. Augustine’s and St. Vincent’s, he also worked at the notorious Bindoon orphanage in Western Australia (see previous posting).

One of the worst abusers at St. Vincent’s orphanage was Brother Rex Elmer (pictured above, on right). Elmer was sentenced to five years’ jail, with parole after 40 months, in 1998. Typically, the Christian Brothers look after their own, even if they are convicted criminals. After his release from jail, Brother Elmer continued to be a member of the Christian Brothers and was given a role in the Christian Brothers’ administration.

The Christian Brothers also helped out Elmer by hiring a leading Melbourne Queen’s Counsel to defend Elmer in court and to oppose the victims. This barrister managed to get the case against Elmer scaled down considerably, resulting in a plea bargain, and a lesser sentence.

Although the original victim was not believed, a second one, in 1976, was believed, but the Christian Brothers did not inform police. Despite this, the Christian Brothers appointed Elmer to the position of principal of St. Joseph’s primary school in Warrnambool, Victoria. When his St. Vincent’s Orphanage abuses were surfacing, the Christian Brothers sent Elmer to teach in Tanzania. He stayed there until 1993, safely away from prosecution.

Eventually, following the Tanzania stint, Elmer was sent on a holiday to the U.S. to receive “therapy”. Back in Australia, he was given an administrative position with the Christian Brothers, with the position only interrupted by his time in prison.

The tragic story of Elmer’s victims is told on the Broken Rites web-site.

A leopard is as likely to change its spots as a pig is to fly. If there is an abuser who has been discovered at one orphanage, it is worth closer attention if that person also worked at another orphanage or school. The St. Vincent’s – St. Augustine’s nexus demonstrates this principle.

[Postscript: The St Vincent’s Boys’ Home building, now occupied by a Catholic welfare agency, is situated at 237 Cecil St, South Melbourne (between Napier and Raglan Sts). The building is still there and can be viewed from the street. It should be sold and the proceeds given to the victims.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: The Phu My Orphanage, Vietnam

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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