The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been proceeding around Australia for the last two years. What is striking, as Historian and Australian Research Council Fellow, Tim Jones notes, is that the authorities deny any knowledge of the level of sexual abuse occurring within the walls of their institutions, or in the case of Aboriginal Missions, from amongst the missionaries. The word of an Aboriginal person was not to be taken seriously in the nineteenth century and until, it seems, the Commission’s hearing in Darwin in September 2014. So too were the allegations of state children who suffered abuse at the hands of trusted priests and clergy whom they had been taught to revere.
Another vexed area is the management of allegations that reached the ears of police or government. Some instances were concealed as I suggest in this article about the Aborigines Inland Mission. Of course the perpetrators were dismissed, but little was done for the children concerned and such matters were never discussed again, let alone recorded in any potential archive. The result, that subsequent generations of managers have been forced to defend the indefensible, is part of the tragedy that is unfolding.
In the last fortnight the Royal Commission has been hearing from residents of the Ballarat Catholic Boys Home in Victoria. The boys, it is alleged have been victims of a broader coverup by the Catholic Church which, as Tim Jones, shows in this item published in Melbourne’s The Age today, has begun to be reframed as ‘sin’ father than what it is, ‘a crime’.