Australian of the Year: Chrissie Foster’s Resolute Battle ‘to Right a Wrong’ for Abused Kids
January 5, 2018
Chrissie Foster said last year she and her late husband Anthony only “struggled to do the right thing and try to right a wrong”.
Their struggle resulted in the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child abuse by religious and other organisations and showed the need for a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
Ms Foster drew state attention to the issue of clergy abuse with her book Hell on the Way to Heaven, co-written with Paul Kennedy, which detailed the Fosters’ fight for justice after two of their daughters were abused by pedophile priest Kevin O’Donnell.
The scale of child sexual abuse and failings by institutions led to a damning report in 2013 and highlighted the need for the royal commission announced by then prime minister Julia Gillard in 2012.
“It has been a long time — for us it has been a 16-year wait,’’ Ms Foster said.
“This just feels like we’ve been heard and believed, which feels like justice.’’
The Fosters gave evidence before the royal commission and supported other survivors, even travelling to Rome for cardinal George Pell’s testimony in 2016.
“This is helping the work of the royal commission on a world stage,” Ms Foster said.
“It’s been such a godsend for the victims of Australia.”
While the journey has been marked by losses, including the death of her daughter Emma in 2008 and her husband’s death last year, Ms Foster has continued to speak out for victims and travelled to Canberra last month to see the commission’s final report handed down.
Ms Foster is adamant the government and church must follow through on the commission’s recommendations to the Catholic Church, including on such matters as the sanctity of the confessional seal.
“The government must be brave and follow the royal commission’s informed recommendations,” she said.
“The Catholic Church priesthood says confession is sacrosanct. I say the bodies of children are sacrosanct.”
Ms Foster was Victoria’s 2017 nominee for Australia’s Local Hero and is one of The Australian’s Australian of the Year nominees.
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