Anglican Church-run Orphanage to Be Examined by Royal Commission

September 26, 2013

MARK COLVIN: The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse is preparing to turn its attention to the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore. Public hearings set down for November will examine how the Anglican diocese of Grafton, which ran the home, handled complaints of abuse. It will also revisit the civil legal action of 2006 and 2007.

Leading the charge against the church is one survivor, Richard "Tommy" Campion, who was in the Lismore home between the 1940s and '60s. He launched the campaign to have the Anglican Church admit that it had a legal duty of care for the orphans who were sexually and physically abused in the home. He's now hoping the Royal Commission will lead to public apologies to individual victims and compensation.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: Richard "Tommy" Campion lived in the North Coast Children's Home from the late 1940s to 1963.

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: I can say it was a hellhole. Brutal bashings. Children were flogged with broomsticks, canes, pony whips, belts. Children were locked in cupboards. Children were made to stand on one leg and if they did fall over they'd be belted and flogged.

If the child wee'd the bed, they were paraded in the dormitory with the sheets over their head, telling this would be a lesson to you guys if you do this. And then they had to go out to the back into the laundry and wash them, and some of the children couldn't reach the tubs. It was pretty sad.

EMILY BOURKE: When the trauma of the abuse surfaced decades later, he approached the Anglican Church which ran the Lismore orphanage.

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: I started having nightmares, you know, really strong nightmares of myself being flogged, and other children being beaten and flogged. And I could visualise it through the day, and I decided I had to do something about it. All I wanted to do was to tell the Church what happened. I just wanted the truth. And they wrote back. They told me I was in a home, an Anglican home, that should have been safe but which was clearly not. Then the Church decided that they would get some money together and pay me.

And while they were doing that I decided that there was all these other children in the home, people I loved and I still remembered. I decided I won't take that money; I'll wait and I'll go and find these children. So I advertised in newspapers. "Anyone was in the Church of England North Coast Children's Home, please ring this number." People started ringing! The phone rang off the hook. And the Church dropped off me then, they didn't want to know anything about me because they heard there was other children coming forward. So that was the end of that. They started fighting back.

EMILY BOURKE: The Church argued it didn't have a duty of care and therefore wasn't legally liable. But it said it had a moral responsibility to respond to the claims and chose to settle them quickly.

While some accepted the financial settlement, Mr Campion didn't.

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: There was a little agreement between a lawyer and the Church and that meant that the children got some money, which the Church called, I quote, "because we are a church of compassion, we are going to give the children X-amount of money. We are a compassionate church, so here's your money."

EMILY BOURKE: What was the amount?

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: The amount was over $800,000 for 41 people.

EMILY BOURKE: Once you divvied that all up, what would that be per person?

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: Some got - depends on how much you were damaged. It might be $20,000, 18, 15, 16. Some people ended up with $5,000.

EMILY BOURKE: Did you accept the payment?

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: My sister and I refused to accept it. No way!

EMILY BOURKE: What did you want?

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: I wanted the truth, simple.

EMILY BOURKE: Four months ago the Bishop of the Anglican diocese of Grafton, Keith Slater, resigned and apologised for his failure to properly manage the claims of abuse.

In November the Royal Commission will publicly examine how the Anglican Church responded and the civil litigation in 2006 and 2007.

Mr Campion welcomes the inquiry but he still has a wish list.

RICHARD "TOMMY" CAMPION: I want to wait 'til it comes full circle, and then I'll say, "Yeah, it's come full circle." All I need now, as I say, I need the children to all be paid. I can't put figures or anything on it, anything like that. I just want them to be compensated, you know, in full. I want them to be able to have something they mightn't have had in their life, to be able to do something special for their family. And I need more apologies from them. I need personal ones for every child.

MARK COLVIN: Richard "Tommy" Campion, abuse survivor from the North Coast Children's Home, ending Emily Bourke's report.








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