Whitlam MP Stephen Jones has addressed parliament in support of victims of historic child sex abuse, including former classmates at Edmund Rice College.
“My purpose today is to say to all those men who felt ignored, who were disbelieved and who felt the burning fury of denial: I know it happened,” Mr Jones said, in an address Wednesday night.
“The shame is not yours. We cannot change the past. We can only hope to bring justice to the victims, the perpetrators and those who covered it up, and to ensure that it does not happen again.”
The speech comes four months after the school’s Brother Chris Roberts pleaded guilty to 11 of 21 charges of historic child sex abuse. The pleas prompted Mr Jones, a former captain at Edmund Rice, to break a long silence on abuses at the school in the 1970s and 1980s.
Echoing his comments made in the media then, Mr Jones told parliament the school had served as a “dumping ground” for sexual predators who had offended elsewhere and been moved on. His form master, principal and parish priest were pedophiles, he said.
“Of course, as young boys we did not have a name for their behaviours. We thought they were a bit creepy. We would go to great lengths to avoid being caught alone with them. Even as kids we could see there was a huge gap between what they taught us and the way they behaved; it’s name was hypocrisy.”
Mr Jones recalled “the saddest conversation that I ever had with my father”.
“He apologised to me for what he thought was a great failing: sending us to a school where these men preyed upon his children and others’ children.”
Mr Jones paid tribute to the college’s existing principal - “a good man running a good school” – and to his “inspiring” teacher, Brother Bell, who he had visited in an aged care home when first elected to parliament.
“I asked for, and he gave me, a bible so that I could be sworn in on it on my first day in Parliament. I have the bible here. It is a modest book – as modest and effective as the man who gave it to me.
‘’If my faith in the church has faltered in the 35 years since he taught me, my faith in this man has not. He lived a life of selfless service. Sadly, some of his brethren were not made of the same stuff.”