A Catholic Brother dies while facing child-abuse allegations

Broken Rites
January 14, 2015

A member of the Marist Brothers in Australia (Brother Donald Brodie NEWTON) has died, in an apparent suicide, just after New South Wales police received child-sex allegations against him from a former schoolboy. Therefore, now that he is dead, Brother Newton will not have to face any police investigation (or any court case) arising from the ex-pupil's allegations.

  • In August 2014, a man from the Hunter region (around Maitland and Newcastle, north of Sydney) made a statement to detectives in the New South Wales police, alleging that while he was a student at Maitland Marist Brothers school in the  late 1970s he was sexually abused by Marist Brother Don Newton during a camping trip. These allegations were also notified to Marist Brothers headquarters in Sydney and to the office of the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese. The allegations were also put to Brother Newton. The Newcastle Herald newspaper says that the complainant is "from a respected  Catholic family".
  • On 5 October 2014, Brother Don Newton, 74, died suddenly in violent circumstances on a suburban railway track in Sydney.

The NSW Coroner’s Office confirmed Brother Newton’s death, but said that a formal cause of death would not be determined until investigations had been finalised.

Donald Newton had spent 56 years as a Marist Brother, working in various Marist schools in New South Wales, Queensland and Canberra.

He first met the Marist Brothers when he was a primary-school pupil. For secondary schooling, he was a boarder with the Marists at St Joseph's College Hunteres Hill, Sydney. During his secondary schooling, he was recruited by the Marists as a future Brother. He officially became a Marist Brother at the age of 18.

After training with the Marists, he began teaching primary-school pupils (as a Marist Brother) at Villa Maria (a Catholic primary school in Hunters Hill, Sydney), later at Lidcombe (in Sydney), Innisfail and  Enoggera (both in Queensland), Eastwood and Dundas (both in Sydney).

He became the principal of a Catholic primary school at Lismore, on the NSW north coast.

Moving to junior secondary teaching in 1977 (when he was aged 37), he worked at Marist Brothers Maitland and later at Kogarah (Sydney), Petrie (Brisbane) and at Marist Brothers College in Canberra

In 1989 he studied in the United States, learning how to work with adults (instead of children), running "spirituality" programs.

For the final 16 years of his life, he was the "Chaplain" at Marist Champagnat College in Pagewood, Sydney.

The death notice, in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 October 2014, gave Newton's full name as "Brother Donald Brodie Newton".   Broken Rites has located Newton's birth notice, published in the Sydney Morning Herald in April 1940.  This, too, gives his birth name as Donald Brodie Newton (born on 19 April 1940).

One old document from the Marist Brothers, found by Broken Rites, has given Brother Newton's full name differently, as Donald Gabriel Newton. Could "Gabriel" have been a "religious" name which the Marists gave him when he joined the order in his teens? Anyway, during living memory, he has been known as Brother Don Newton.

Now that Brother Donald Newton is deceased, it is no longer possible for police to interview him or to charge him or for him to contest the charges. 

The Newcastle Herald newspaper, which is interested in the Maitland Marists, is doing some more research about Brother Newton.

Marist Brother Donald Newton is not to be confused with another "Brother Don Newton" (born a year earlier, in 1939) who belonged to a different religious order in Australia, the De La Sale Brothers.


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