Church creates new role to stop repeat of Neerkol

By Lisa Benoit
June 2, 2015

Bishop of Rockhampton Diocese Michael McCarthy.

AFTER hearing the heartache of child sex abuse victims from Neerkol Orphanage, Catholic Church leaders in the Rockhampton Diocese have taken steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

In April, the Royal Commission held a public hearing into child sex abuse in Rockhampton, where Neerkol victims shared their horror stories from more than three decades of abuse at the hands of priests and sisters at the Central Queensland orphanage.

Allegations of abuse at the orphanage first came to light in the 1990s.

The Catholic Church has now appointed a response co-ordinator for the Rockhampton Diocese, to respond to allegations and complaints of abuse against church personnel.

Melissa Davey has been appointed as the co-ordinator and will work closely with Rockhampton Bishop Michael McCarthy.

Training programs, structures and policies to ensure parishes are safe and secure environments have been put in place.

Bishop McCarthy, who attended the Royal Commission, said he was committed to ensuring the mistakes of the past were not repeated.

"Hearing firsthand the reflections of the survivors of child sexual abuse has only served to deepen my awareness of sexual abuse experienced by the most vulnerable, who sought from the church security and care," Bishop McCarthy said in a letter to the Rockhampton Diocese.

"I am sorry for the pain they endured and the suffering that continues for them still.

"I remain fully committed to supporting the journey of reconciliation for those whose lives were damaged... and to ensuring that child protection in our Diocese is a major priority during my time as your Bishop."

At the Royal Commission hearing in Rockhampton, retired Bishop Brian Heenan apologised for the way he responded in the 1990s to allegations of child sex abuse at Neerkol Orphanage.

The Royal Commission heard Bishop Heenan allowed a priest to stay on at a parish even though he knew he was a pedophile.

After the Royal Commission, Bishop Heenan said: "I apologise again for the harm and suffering of former St Joseph's Orphanage residents at the hands of the Catholic Church clerics, sisters and staff."


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