Lawyers appeal for witnesses of alleged historical sex abuse at Port Hedland Catholic school

Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]

November 5, 2023

By Jane Murphy

A Catholic primary school in WA’s north has become the target of a historical child sexual abuse investigation, with allegations two clergymen assaulted a student at the school more than 30 years ago.

Key points:

  • There is an appeal for past students at St Cecilia’s Catholic Primary School to come forward
  • A man alleges he was assaulted by two priests during the 1980s and 1990s 
  • Lawyers say the case is the latest of four allegations made against one man

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has made a public appeal calling for witnesses who attended St Cecilia’s Catholic Primary School and parish in Port Hedland in the 1980s and 1990s.

The school, with less than 200 students, allies with the parishes of both Port Hedland and South Hedland.

The legal team said the appeal related to a client who alleges to have been sexually abused by two priests while attending the school during the same period.

Principal lawyer John Rule said the case was the latest in a string of individual allegations made against one man.

“We are aware of at least three other allegations against one of these alleged perpetrators,” Mr Rule said.

He said the public notice, published in a local newspaper on Wednesday, was likely to help inform their client’s case.

“We’re hoping to connect with witnesses and potential witnesses,” he said.

“This is something we do in historical abuse cases where it can be hard to find evidence. There are very rarely witnesses to the actual abuse, but people might know something about these perpetrators.”

Other allegations ‘very likely’

Mr Rule said the notice might also encourage other alleged victims to come forward.

“We think that there will very likely be other people affected.

“Where we are aware of that many [allegations], we suspect there will be a lot more.”

The legal team is looking to make a claim on their client’s behalf for civil damages.

“The impacts on our client have been significant and are still affecting him today,” Mr Rule said.

“Primarily we are looking at preparing the case for our client.

“If other people come forward … we can also give them advice and representation if they want it.”

The Catholic Education Department has been contacted for comment.