Christian Brothers Perth: Closing statement

The Royal Commission into the Christian Brothers concluded on Wednesday (yesterday). In a final statement to the Royal Commission, Provincial, Br Julian McDonald made a heartfelt apology to the victims of sexual abuse and committed to re-examining past settlements and continuing ongoing care.

In a closing statement to the Commission Brother McDonald said:

“There are probably lots of things I'd like to say. The most moving part of this week and a half - were the hours I sat down in the corner - and heard the testimony of the 11 men. No-one could have sat in this room and been unmoved by their simple eloquence as they told the story of what had happened to them.  The tragic irony of that for me is that they became teachers for us Christian Brothers - from the very ones from whom they had every right to expect an education. That was denied them.

"One of my regrets is that not every Christian Brother in Oceania was here to hear their testimony. These men, and others beside them - a whole lot of others - were transported to Australia, presumably with hope in their hearts and an expectation that they'd be given the right to an education.  They wouldn't have been able to express it in those terms, but that right was denied them.  They were turned into child labourers to build a monument to human folly and blind ambition.  That's a tragedy; it's a denial of their rights to an education.  It turned out to be a denial of their right to nurture, their right to be treated with respect, all of that.

“They were denied that opportunity and the shame for that rests with me as a leader in the Christian Brothers.  Fortunately, places like Bindoon now have been turned around – by communities of students, their teachers, their parents, the board that runs them, and the brothers who live there – into a healthy community.  But, for that to take a half a century is inexcusable.  I recognise, with shame, that the leadership of the Christian Brothers failed them. You could say it bordered on almost criminal neglect. I recognise it and I accept it, and I ask forgiveness on behalf of the Brothers for it.

“The Catholic Church in Australia has got to listen to the voices of people like bishop Geoff Robinson whose writing and research has made an enormous contribution in this area, and people like Sister Angela Ryan, whose action has done an enormous amount to reach out to victims. But we ignore their voices and their action at our peril.

“Probably there are a whole lot of things that I could say, but I that time is getting on and I don't want to hold up people who have to travel.  I do want to say, your Honour, that I thank you and the other Commissioners and your staff for pursuing what I see as a distasteful and very difficult task.  I respect that you are vigorous in wanting to find the truth and the answers.  I'm open to offering something from my experience, if that is helpful, about working to reasons and solutions.  There are reasons, and I think the reasons relate to the fact that the Christian Brothers in these institutions put people in charge of children who had no qualification to look after them.  Some of them were shearers and farmers - very good vocations but not suitable for supervising children, and isolating them and working them in inhumane conditions, as the children were in inhumane conditions, and I think that sort of thing has to be explored as a cause.

“But I want to thank you and your team for the way you have pursued it, and assure you that the Christian Brothers will do all we can to cooperate with you in your pursuit. I think that's all I have to say.”

Read media release from Christian Brothers.

See their earlier statement.

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