Child sex abuse: Class action looms in Nudgee Junior claims


December 23, 2017

By Greg Stolz

A class action against the Catholic Church over alleged shocking private school abuse could be looming, with dozens of former students from Nudgee Junior College coming forward.

The ex-students have contacted lawyers after The Sunday Mail revealed that two Queensland brothers have launched a multimillion-dollar claim for damages, for physical and sexual abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of teachers at the Brisbane school in the 1970s.

Former Nudgee Junior College captain John O’Leary and his brother Bill are seeking about $7 million in damages from the Christian Brothers for their alleged mistreatment while they were boarders.

The Supreme Court claim, lodged last week, alleges then-Nudgee Junior headmaster Brother John Regan subjected the O’Learys to ‘‘terrifying’’ physical and verbal attacks.

The siblings allege Regan beat them daily – sometimes knocking them unconscious – kicked them, struck them hundreds of times and lifted them off the ground by their ears.

John O’Leary, who was junior college captain and is now an unemployed labourer living on a derelict boat in north Queensland, alleges he lived “in a constant state of terror and anxiety” as an 11-year-old and 12-year-old at the school.

The brothers allege the abuse left them with profound and long-lasting psychological damage.

Lawyers said the case could be a landmark action, challenging the State Government’s failure to remove time limits for physical abuse claims, as other states have done.

Nudgee Junior College students Bill (left) and John O’Leary.
The O’Learys have hired high-profile Gold Coast law firm Nyst Legal.

Their lawyer, Brendan Nyst, said dozens of ex-Nudgee Junior students and some from other schools had come forward since The Sunday Mail broke the story last week.

“Our office has been inundated with calls from former students,” he said.

“We’re currently assessing the information.”

The State Government had last year removed the three-year time limit on sexual abuse claims, in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse.

Mr Nyst said because Queensland did not to remove the time limits for physical abuse, as other states did, the O’Learys would have to convince the Supreme Court to allow their claim to proceed.

The O’Learys said they hoped the Catholic Church would not exploit abuse-claim time-limit laws.

“After all these years I think they’ll finally do the right thing,” John O’Leary said.

“Back then we were just kids. We had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one to turn to.”

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