Image: New Anglican bishop of Grafton, Macneil
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse third “case study” hearing has received witness statements from three more victims of the North Coast Children’s Home in New South Wales state. The Home was run by the Anglican Church, known elsewhere as the Episcopalian Church or the Church of England.
It has previously been revealed that the offences were horrendous, and that the local church officials attempted to avoid responsibility for the Home. The chief offenders in this regard were former bishop, Keith Slater, and former administrator, Pat Comben. It has also been revealed that the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Phillip Aspinall, tried to avoid responsibility for the actions of the local officials by claiming he had no authority over them.
Victim “CD” told the enquiry that sexual, physical and psychological abuse began when he was six years old. He told of witnessing other children being abused, including the rape of a girl by older boys. “She was there, naked and crying, and I couldn’t do or say anything, for fear of being bashed up.” CD also told of being taken away for a weekend at the age of seven or eight by a staff member who sexually abused him
The girl who “CD” was referring to was “CN”, whose statement was read to the hearing. She described her reaction on being admitted to the Home at the age of seven, in the 1950s. “It smelt terrible, like faeces, and there was vomit on the ground. I could see about twenty-odd children, all dirty. It was horrific. I felt that I couldn’t protect myself or my sister … I was told, and I heard other children being told, that we were ‘dirty little heathens’”, her statement read.
She was routinely told she was “lying and worthless” and “bad and horrible.” She witnessed the Rev. Winston Morgan “flogging the children”, including witness “Tommy” Campion (see previous posting). She had seen many clergymen come and go during her time at the Home, including Allan Kitchingman (the subject of this “case study” – see previous posting “Who is Allan Kitchingman?”). Her experiences later led to multiple suicide attempts.
The clergymen were “visitors” or “chaplains”, but the person responsible for the day-to-day running of the Home was termed a “Matron”, a common term in Children’s Homes, designed to give the impression of care of the standard typical of hospitals. The “matron” of most concern at this Home was one Jean O’Neill. Those within the church, who are going around saying that, now that the new bishop in the diocese, Sarah Macneil, is a woman, and therefore matters will be dealt with more sympathetically, would do well to consider “Matron” O’Neill.
A woman known as “CM” described a leather-covered, steel riding crop which O’Neill had, and used frequently on the children. “CM” said that “It would leave red marks, bruises and cuts on me which sometimes took two weeks to heal,” and that “I would be whipped for the most trivial things like not using my manners.” She also said she often “heard O’Neill whipping children in her office with the riding crop, and children screaming. The whoosh noise filled me with intense fear.”
“CN’ reinforced the impression of O’Neill as a sadist, describing her as being “unbelievably cruel”. Evidence from “CD” demonstrated O’Neill’s sadism was not restricted to the physical realm, but also carried over into the psychological. He testified that, when he finally left the Home, he was shown a bag full of letters and presents by his district officer. “He told me that they were things – gifts and letters – that people had sent to me while I was at the home. Miss O’Neill had kept them all locked away from me in the office,” he said.
The attempts by the Anglican Church to avoid responsibility, and pay compensation, clearly added to the existing pain for the victims. When recompense was finally offered, it was insulting. “CD” said: “I am not settled with the amount that I settled for. I have lived with the impact of the abuse for nearly thirty years of my life. I want someone to be held responsible for it, to be accountable. I feel like the Church has given me the money and told me to shut up and go away.”
“CN” said that the Anglican Church “were telling their congregation that they were doing everything they could to help the victims of the home. In the media they had people discrediting our story and said that they did not own and run the home. And to the lawyers they were outright denying legal responsibility. I will not walk into a church again unless I have to because of both the abuse I suffered in the home and because of the way they handled the court case. I asked for a written apology, which I never got.”
“CN” said she had people from the Anglican community ringing her telling her she was lying when her accusations were publicized. “I believe that Pat Comben got them on board because the church wanted to protect its reputation and the reputation of Miss O’Neill, So it made me feel just like I felt when I was in the Home, like I was lying and worthless.” she said. (See previous postings on Comben).
“At the end of the case, it was like being raped all over again,” her statement said.
[Postscript: Archbishop Phillip Aspinall continues to maintain his silence. New Anglican bishop of Grafton, Sarah Macneil (pictured above) will not be called to give evidence to the enquiry about what she intends to do to right the wrongs of her predecessors.]
Read more here:
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Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)