Royal commission into child sex abuse about restoring faith

Sydney Morning Herald

APRIL 1 2017

Joanne McCarthy

I can only remember four words of a conversation with Justice Peter McClellan after the final day of evidence in Newcastle about the Hunter region’s tragic history of child sexual abuse involving churches.

It was September 8 last year, and we were standing outside Newcastle Courthouse. For more than a month the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard devastating evidence of abuse in the Catholic and Anglican churches, of cover-ups and the appalling treatment of survivors.

I know I thanked Justice McClellan for his public acknowledgement of the Newcastle Herald’s role in the royal commission’s establishment. But what I said is lost in a mist of age, exhaustion and the emotions stirred up by those weeks of public hearings.

I know he referred to the length of time I had written about child sexual abuse, but the exact words are gone. The only reason I know Justice McClellan said something like that is because I remember my three-word response: “You know why.”

We were shaking hands at the time. The late-afternoon traffic trundled or thundered along Hunter Street a few metres away, Justice McClellan’s car was waiting nearby, but for a few seconds it was a club of two members, joined by acknowledging the courage, grief and sadness of other people’s lives. Silence was the only response.

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