Christian Brothers accused of dodging Ballarat child sex abuse compensation claims
By Charlotte King
March 29, 2016
|Ron Kochskamper as a student at St Alipius Boys School in Ballarat.|
|Brother Best was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison for sexually abusing young boys.|
A religious order implicated in a notorious child sex abuse ring in Victoria has been accused of refusing to assist victims achieve adequate compensation.
A survivor and his lawyer said the Christian Brothers, who ran the St Alipius Boys School in Ballarat, were adopting a smoke and mirrors approach to avoid paying up.
Ron Kochskamper was nine years old when he started at St Alipius in 1965.
"So here I come as a bright, fresh-faced child, ready to go to school. And here are these hardened paedophiles. Basically, I didn't have a hope. We were lambs to the slaughter," he said.
For decades, Mr Kochskamper said he repressed his memories of abuse.
His school principal at the time, and one of the 59-year-old's two abusers, was Christian Brother Robert Best. In 2011, when Best was jailed for his crimes against boys in Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne, Mr Kochskamper watched from his living room television.
He could not work out why he was having trouble standing up.
"The psychologist described this as locking it away in a door, in a cupboard, and I got to age 55 and this is thrown on me," he said.
'Like a horror scene in the Lord of the Rings'
Later, he approached his wife — his life partner since the age of 16.
"And she said: 'Do you remember in the early days, you used to vomit when you went past the church?"
It's been gut-wrenching, and I'm still getting through the anger, unfortunately.
Ron Kochskamper, survivor
There were also the unexplained night terrors, which he described as being like a horror scene in the Lord of the Rings film.
"The little hobbit guy is running along and they're after him, the guys on the black horses, and you can hear the nostrils going and it's dark and scary and these things are hunting him out," Mr Kochskamper.
"It's been gut-wrenching and I'm still getting through the anger, unfortunately."
He said legal redress was the only avenue that made sense to him.
"My aim was to hit them where it hurts," he said.
'Christian Brothers need to stand behind Brother Best financially'
Late last year, Catholic authorities agreed to adopt a new approach towards civil litigation for victims.
The guidelines, put forward by the church's Truth Justice and Healing Council, were meant to make it easier for clergy abuse survivors to sue for damages.
But Mr Kochskamper's lawyer, Vivian Waller, said the Christian Brothers were trying to avoid paying fair compensation.
The religious order has nominated the school's then principal, Brother Best, as the defendant to be sued for negligence on their behalf.
But Ms Waller said they would not back the convicted felon with their assets.
"Having to sue Brother Best as an individual means that victim survivors run the huge risk that even if their claim is successful, they won't receive any compensation because of Brother Best's limited capacity to pay compensation to his many victims," she said.
"What the Christian Brothers should do is indicate that they are financially prepared to stand behind Brother Best, so that in the event of a successful compensation claim, the victim survivor knows that in fact they will receive their compensation."
Calls for government to intervene
In this case the Catholic Church want to say, well, you know, we took your life, but it's not our fault.
Ron Kochskamper, survivor
The chief executive of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said it was the responsibility of governments to pass laws to force institutions to be financially liable for past abuse.
"Our job was to create a policy. We don't as a council get involved in the particular cases, and we certainly don't scan the country to try and survey how those cases are going," he said.
"Part of our submission to the royal commission is that legislation should be passed by governments that oblige all non-incorporated entities that have anything to do with children to make available an entity for this purpose.
"That would then be the law and make it a lot more binding in negotiations."
For Mr Kochskamper, it defies belief that the Christian Brothers' actions are legal.
"In this case the Catholic Church want to say, well, you know, we took your life, but it's not our fault," he said.
"Here's an organisation that gets public money. As a taxpayer, as a ratepayer, I'd want that to be accountable."
The ABC contacted the Christian Brothers but they were unavailable for comment.