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The Darker Side of the Anglican Church of Australia
If the Anglican Church of Australia continue to disregard the truth of abuse, if they refuse to act promptly and help victims who may come forward with written complaints of abuse which the church request, if they fail to follow their own code of ethics and carry on with their grubby and scurrilous ways, the future of the church will be doomed and the lives of victims will be traumatised forever. The Anglican Church may as well disband and go into the business of buying and selling property, which is something they are well practiced at.
In The Beginning:
In the past the Anglican Church of Australia had a good name – a name that could be trusted – a name the public could rely on from day to day.
As the years passed, terrified people cautiously came forward telling horrific stories of sexual violence and physical abuse. The good name of the church began to fade.
But instead of reaching out to those victims, the Anglican Church closed their hearts and minds and locked the doors to the church. They went about their methods in dark and mysterious ways. When the victims pleaded with the church to listen to them, to speak with them, there was silence.
These days, because of the past secrecy and stubbornness concerning the abuse of children in Anglican homes and out-of-home care; the abuse of children by Anglican clergy, and the lack of honesty, integrity and caring when it came to those complaints, the public soon developed a bad taste in their mouths for the church.
Yet, if the leaders of the Anglican Church had followed their code of ethics, opened their hearts and spoke softly and gently with each and every victim, offered a decent compensation without whinging and whining, and helped put their shattered lives back together, perhaps they would have been redeemed.
But they did not do that! Instead, they fought with fire and brimstone denying the victims’ requests. And they fought even harder to keep their finances firmly intact. The Anglican Church had shown their true colours with how they handled child abuse.
Don’t Blame God:
Although the Anglican Church of Australia feature in this website, it has little to do with God. God is good.
It’s about the clergy who work for God and his church. The same clergy who have a duty of care to protect those who were physically and sexually abused while in their care in Anglican homes and out-of-home care throughout Australia.
It was because of family breakdowns that innocent children were put in Anglican homes to be loved and nurtured. But at times they were not.
The Anglican Church has made some selfish and cruel judgments that have deeply affected the lives of many Australians.
All that is required is for the church leaders to stop their intolerable behaviour. Stop hiding the truth from the public and stop controlling the victims they abused.
There are those of the Anglican clergy who are decent but there are some who lack honesty and integrity.
I am neither against those who believe in the Anglican Church faith nor those who follow their doctrine.
What does it all mean?
This website is to help those who were abused in Anglican Church homes across Australia. It is for those victims who wish to seek facts on how to receive monetary pastoral support from the church, which all victims are entitled to. I will give an insight into what goes on behind the doors in the inner sanctum of the church.
It is for the public who would like a snapshot into the dealings of the Anglican Church without having to go to church (and put money in the collection plate).
I will supply true facts and quotes from letters received from the Anglican Church of Australia. Letters I wrote to the church and facts acquired from DOCS archives, Freedom of Information and confidential sources.
In the six or so years I have dealt with the Anglican Church, I have learnt much of how they function. I know of the rhetoric they use to pacify the victims and how they gloss over the expressions of abuse. I know how they structure their words so as to take blame away from the church. I have facts on hand that the Anglican Church know of but would not pass on to the victims. It is my duty to do that.
During my quest to seek justice from the Anglican Church for the abuse of children, I have discovered there is a ‘mum's the word’ attitude that requires them not to enforce the truth against other members of the clergy who may do wrong nor co-operate to do so and even go as far as hinder or block any such attempt.
I will tell you my story of the abuse I suffered in an Anglican home that will leave you stunned. I will give my opinion of how it could have been prevented. Above all I will write the truth. I will hold nothing back except certain details of the abuse that are too horrendous to describe.
I want people to know how two victims of abuse fought like hell to crack the code of the Anglican Church of Australia in an effort to have them admit to the truth of abuse and duty of care.
I told several people from the Anglican Church that I was creating a website and asked if they had anything negative or positive to add. I did not receive a reply.
I have tried my best to get the facts straight. If there are mistakes in this website they are mine entirely.
Note: I am not an educated writer. My punctuation is terrible. I don’t use complex words that require a dictionary because I don’t know any. What I will write is dead serious but at times when I see fit I will use a tiny bit of humour to keep me sane.
Bad Start to Life:
I was named Richard Campion. My nickname is Tommy and has been since Adam wore short pants. Very few people call me Richard. I was born in 1947. I have a sister, Suzanne born in 1945. We love each other and have never had an argument or shared a bad word between us.
Suzanne and I had lousy parents. When I was two our mother Betty beckoned Suzanne to her side and dropped two shillings in her hand. She told her to be good, picked up her suitcase and walked to the door of the single room in which we lived. Without looking back she left, locking the door behind her. With her head bowed low to escape recognition, her soft silky hair dangling lightly around her shoulders, Betty skulked to the nearby railway station and caught the 3.05 to somewhere.
Arriving home from work our father Peter found he had been abandoned. Tucking me under his arm he dashed to the railway station with hope in his heart. Suzanne followed the best she could. Peter was too late. Betty had gone to start a new life.
Our father couldn’t care for us or didn’t want to care for us so he carted us off to an Anglican home for children. He signed the appropriate papers and wandered off into the night leaving us to scream the place down. He visited us for a while but soon forgot the address. Suzanne and I never set eyes on either of our parents ever again.
Home of Hatred and Horrors:
Suzanne and I lived in the Anglican home for collectively 22 years. I lived there for 14 years, Suzanne eight. Most of those years were full of hatred, bloody brutal floggings and sexual abuse. It was a home of hell and fury.
Fear ruled our life. In my days, children were sexually abused, many savagely beaten by Matron Martin and various staff with belts, electric cords, pony whips and small flexible branches which at times they were ordered to fetch from the back yard.
Various Anglican clergy also abused the children. If a child was ‘very naughty’ a minister would be called to the home and the hell began.
Matron Martin (pictured below right) was the vilest person I have met to this day. She was in charge of the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home from September 1945 to June 1958/59. Martin had an uncontrollable temper; she was a violent drunk who was callous and incapable of love and kindness to children within the home. The torture she dealt out was nothing short of barbaric.
Some of the beatings were so vicious it opened the skin on the children’s bodies. Floggings, beatings, pain, screaming, fear, welts, painful joints, missing clumps of hair, bruises and burning ears were all part of the children’s day to day life.
Little children who soiled their beds had their face rubbed in the urine or faeces. As a warning not to do it again the matron and staff would wrap the sheets around their heads and beat them as they were paraded through the dormitory. The children were forced to wash the sheets by hand in the primitive laundry until they were as “white as snow”. Some children could barely reach the washtubs.
The little girls were also beaten and thrashed by Matron Martin and her staff, sometimes for not making their bed they way they should or if they were late to school or late home. There were many reasons why the children were beaten. Punishment was dished out with fury. It they didn’t eat all the swill on their plate they were beaten. The words, “the matron wants to see you” would strike terror in the heart of every child.
A wall separated the boys and girls dormitory. At times I couldn’t see the girls being beaten, but I heard them. Their pathetic screaming and wailing as the strap made contact with their tiny bodies was bloody devastating. The threatening booming voice of the matron was deadly and frightening. Later, the sorrowful weeping of the inconsolable children would break my heart. (I cried as I wrote that particular part).
When some of the boys grew too big or too strong, which the staff said enabled them to ‘fight back’, the staff would make their move, swiftly and quietly when they were asleep. In the morning, other children would notice a bed that had been stripped, blankets roughly folded at the end of the thin mattress. A child would be gone without a trace. Children lived in fear that they would be next.
A few details of the church home:
The home was at 13 Keen Street, Lismore New South Wales, Australia. It was a hop step and a jump from the CBD. A huge sturdy sign concreted into the ground at the front entrance proudly boasted it was the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home.
It was a former police station, jail and barracks. It stood on high ground, with the north arm of the Richmond River on one side and the city of Lismore at its knees.
(Current pictured of where the home operated)
The Anglican Church clergy surrounded the children in a compound type situation. The rectory was on one side, the young ministers’ residence on the other. A spit away, towering above them all was the beautiful but daunting St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. Its soaring steeple with a cross on the top reached up to God. It could be seen from many parts of the city. The few times I climbed the rickety spiral iron steps to the top of the tower, I saw tiny bats.
The home had separate dormitories for boys and girls. A closed-in veranda and other little bedrooms were scattered within the home. There were several rooms for the staff to sleep. We ate swill from a kitchen that smelt like a tannery in a dining room that looked like a pig sty. There were grubby shower cubicles and a couple of dunnies, all the things that make a home a dump.
To keep the children in at night the windows had bars. Some children were pleased with the bars as it kept the bogeyman out. I was scared of the bogeyman. Children who were flexible or undernourished could squeeze through the bars. They would slink door-to-door thieving the bread and milk that was delivered to private homes. Because food was scarce in the home, it was stolen to fill our bellies.
One of the rooms that didn’t have windows with bars was the chapel at the ‘superior’ end of the home. St Andrew’s ministers held services there once or twice a week. At times the braver children managed to sneak past the staff at night and escape from those windows. They’d be back well before sunrise. But if they got caught...
Note: When Suzanne and I arrived at the home in 1949 it was named the North Coast Children’s Home. When that little sign on the letterbox finally succumbed to the elements the home was proudly renamed the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home. It was a great day for the children because when the matron wasn’t sniffing around, they used it as monkey bars. The sign was to stand as a symbol until the Anglican home closed in 1983.
However, even though there were photographs of the sign taken in 1963 and1973 (which I have) and documents proving it was the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home, the church leaders continually denied it was an Anglican Church home. In all my dealings I had with the church they stood their ground on that. In every letter I received from the church over a six-year period, not at any time did they refer to it as the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home.
As Suzanne and I grew into our teens and adult life (in different parts of Australia) we were not to know the effect the abuse was to have on our lives. We were unaware we would suffer so painfully from something that happened so long ago. But it bloody well did. When the memories of floggings, bashings and sexual molestation picked at our brains there was very little we could do to stop it.
As I was a cheerful little bugger I was pretty good at hiding the pain. But when it was on the rampage if felt like my heart was being ripped out and fed to the dogs. Raging floods of misery gripped my body. It went on and on, especially at night. At times the misery took a break and my day-to-day life would be a rollicking barrel of fun, full of laughter, joking, singing, beautiful girls, loving, good happenings, sex and whoopee – you little beauty. I loved life. I loved people. And when I had a few beers I loved them even more. But the misery of abuse always lurked inside me ready to strike.
Suzanne says: “I dealt with my pain and the fear by not acknowledging the detrimental effect it had on my being. It came hard and fast rendering me incapable of functioning normally. The fear was more painful than any one could imagine. That’s all I wish to say about that”.
Suzanne and I would speak of how lucky we were to have survived the ferocious years in the Anglican home. We spoke of how we watched the children being taunted and flogged, useless to help them. We spoke of the scars still on my back from the flogging I received from the matron.
We talked of how Suzanne would sit beside me for days on end as I struggled to suck air into my lungs. It was said, I came close to dying several times. (Courtesy of my father I was born with chronic asthma)
Suzanne and I still speak of how deeply hurt we are that we still have to battle the church for the rights that any human being deserves.
As our stories are different, to make it easier for a boofhead like me to write, and others to read, I will write of myself. In instances I will refer to my dear sister, Suzanne. This is how it happened…
A Walk Through the Valley of Deceit:
In August 2005, at the age of 58, a form of depression, hopelessness, grief, or whatever the experts call it, skulked back into my life. Vivid nightmares of abuse tormented me unmercifully – continuing into my day-to-day being.
In despair I wrote a letter of complaint of my suffering and spirited if off to the Anglican Church of Australia in Sydney. It was passed on to the Diocese of Grafton in New South Wales, Australia.
I needed the church to know how they destroyed my life; to acknowledge and apologise for the brutal and bloody beatings and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of various home staff and various members of the St Andrew’s Anglican Church clergy. At that stage I wanted nothing else. (The Grafton Diocese was the diocese in which the Church of England North Coast Children’s Homes was located).
Shortly after, much to my surprise, I received a compassionate letter from the Reverend Patrick (Pat) Comben, Anglican Church Grafton Diocesan Registrar, former Queensland Labor Party politician and one of the politicians involved in the Heiner Affair in the illegal shredding of papers relating to child abuse at a Brisbane detention centre that were needed for evidence, and the subsequent cover-up of that action, and Australia Day recipient.
Rev Comben offered compensation and counselling. He supplied me with appropriate addresses and phone numbers of people who were on stand-by to assist me. Comben even supplied me with his home number. (His letter was dated October 2, 2005).
Extracts from Reverend Comben’s letter: “ I am unable to adequately express my personal feelings of revulsion, sorrow and helplessness which the letter raises inside me.” And: “While the Bishop is presently away I have no hesitation is speaking on behalf of the Diocese in saying that we will do all we can to assist you to move beyond the pain that was caused in an Anglican place that should have been safe, but which was clearly not.” I was so moved by his words I sobbed.
I accepted Reverend Comben’s counselling offer but not the compensation. I felt it wasn’t fair to the others who were in the home. I knew there were at least another 100 or so children who were abused (in the time I was living there) who deserved compensation but didn’t realise they were entitled to it (just as I didn’t realise).
I decided to contact those people. To do that I sent public notices to about 80 newspapers across Australia asking for those who had lived in the home to contact me. (Some newspapers had free sections to do that) Even though only a few newspapers would have published my message I received 52 phone calls from people who were abused in the same home – some who I knew of and had seen being abused.
Suzanne sent her complaint of abuse to the Anglican Church in late 2005. Reverend Pat Comben said he would travel to her home in New South Wales to discuss her grief.
As she was unsure of Comben’s motives she decided to have a friend sit with her. She advised him not him to take notes, which he agreed to. She had no intention of asking for compensation. She just needed her abuse to be acknowledged.
Sitting at the table with Suzanne, Reverend Comben told how he was abused as a child (within his family). After discussing the abuse in the Anglican home, at the end of the meeting he told Suzanne he would report to Bishop Keith Slater when he returned to the Grafton diocese. Part of that report would be: “I have looked into your eyes and I know what you are telling me is the truth. That is what I am going to tell the Bishop”. As Comben left he told Suzanne he would be in touch. She never heard from him.
You gotta get a lawyer son
In the meantime, as things were heating up, lawyer Simon Harrison of Nicol Robinson Halletts in Brisbane Queensland Australia was recommended to help me receive compensation. To do that he had to prove that the Anglican Church had the duty of care of the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home. I believed that was an easy call for any lawyer. And judging by Comben’s admission that it was an “Anglican place that should have been safe” it would be a straightforward case without conflict.
I believed lawyer Harrison would be a strong voice for the victims if they were to join me. And because of his experience in another child abuse case (which he won), his magnificent preamble and pleasant persona I asked him to represent me on a “no win no pay” basis.
Soon, 40 more people (from the same home) sought compensation from the Anglican Church Diocese of Grafton in New South Wales, Australia for abuse suffered at the hands of Anglican clergy and home staff.
Some people signed up with lawyer Harrison because of phoning me, others from newspaper and radio publicity.
Soon 41 former residents of the home wrote and signed statutory declarations stating the abuse they suffered.
It was not a class action. Each case was based on individual merits.
For the next two years the Anglican Church pushed its weight around, disobeyed their code of ethics and bent the truth. It denied it had the duty of care. It was a dirty, fiery, nasty duel causing heartache and doubts.
Reverend Comben had a tongue that could clip a hedge. He made scathing attacks on the victims such as: “At least they had a roof over their heads.” His unashamed slurs were damning.
As the evidence mounted against the Anglican Church, Reverend Comben dodged the church’s code of ethics and cowardly reneged on his “Anglican place that should have been safe” statement. (I was to haunt him about that for years to come).
Busy or not, Lawyer Simon Harrison had a few problems with returning phone calls, faxes or taking advice. When he did phone it was usually for something he needed. He was a smooth softly spoken man with a convincing pretext. At one stage he did not phone me for over five months. Even though, he said he was available, for everyone to get hold of him was a real challenge. I gave up chasing him and kept writing letters and sending faxes instead.
I “sacked” one of his assistants who in my opinion was incompetent. I reported another for giving details of a personal nature to a witness. That was denied. There was a trouble-shooter in the law office that we could write to, but offered no help. Several claimants phoned telling me of lawyer Harrison’s uncooperative nature. I simmered with rage.
To cut a long story short, some how, and he wouldn’t tell me how it exactly happened, and he didn’t have to, lawyer Simon Harrison failed to prove that the Anglican Church had the duty of care of the home. He lost the compensation claim. I was devastated. (As I was the person who kicked off the claim I was ashamed that I had failed the people).
The Anglican Church empathetically denied they had connection to the Home. They denied they were the licensing authority. They denied they had the responsibility of duty of care for the hundreds of children who had lived there over the five decades the home functioned.
The Anglican Church washed its hands of the victims. It did a Pontius Pilate impression to a tee. I was shocked. I sobbed for weeks.
I am a boofhead at this law caper, but if the Anglican Church didn’t have the duty of care for the home who in the hell did? Someone must have – that was the law. Who had the responsibility to care and nurture the hundreds of children? Who held the license for the duty of care? Who filled out the monthly government forms to be able to have the duty of care? Who collected the child endowment payments? Who was it that was obliged to follow the rules of the Child Welfare Act? Was it, Mother Theresa?
The Anglican Church distanced itself from the responsibility of duty of care. Instead it broadcasted near and far, bleating loudly that it was in fact a Lismore “community group” who had the duty of care.
That was a bowel shattering moment – one that had me running outside to be sick.
Even though the church said a “community group” had the duty of care, no information was offered. It did not supply names, no facts or figures or any legal documents to support their claim. Maybe it was right, I thought. Maybe its lawyers had found new evidence.
As far as I could fathom, the “community group” was a bunch of towns-folk in the local community who now and again raised funds for the home, donated goods and at times helped around the home with odd jobs. And some of the well-heeled people of Lismore town who were staunch in their feelings for the church doctrine were nominated by the church to help with the administration were also part of the “community group”.
Compassionate church or not:
Nevertheless, to improve the status of the Anglican Church and to keep everyone happy, they offered the sum of $825,000 to be shared amongst the 41 claimants.
Depending on the harshness of the abuse, the 41 victims would receive about $10,000.00 to $22, 000.00 each, half of which would go to lawyer Harrison’s law firm. Some victims received a measly $5,000.
That is not being ungrateful, but considering the horrific abuse the children suffered in the home, the pain and suffering they had to endure for the rest of their life, the amount offered was a pittance. But it was enough to buy lots of bread and milk.
Note: Because of the long drawn out gruelling fight, 38 or 39 of the victims accepted their share of the money. Suzanne and I threw our hands in the air and refused to accept a cent. I phoned several victims and asked them not to accept but to wait a bit longer. But they weren’t interested. They wanted to have it all over and done with. I didn’t argue with that.
To further escape from blame, rubbing sea-salt salt into the wounds, Reverend Comben and Bishop Slater proudly crowed in newspaper articles: “The church had no legal duty of care to any of the former residents of the home and the payout was simply an act of compassion. We have made an offer on the basis that the church is a church of compassion and wants to make a passable approach to people who had apparently been damaged in a place that had some sort of connection with some church people.”
And: “The home was run by a “community group” and while there were Anglican clergy there, the church never appointed staff, managed the home nor exercised any control over its operation. The church was connected to the home but not responsible for it.”
Comment: In my opinion the church’s words was a nastily crafted package of deceitfulness. Because of the cold-heartedness and callous disregard for the truth, I closed the windows in my home and screamed my lungs out and kicked my stuffed teddy bear Roy from one corner of the room to another.
If you feel strongly about this can you sign my petition to the Anglican Church here
To veiw the petition click the link below