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Solid ground in inaction on child abuse for building name change at Churchie

By Amanda Gearing - posted Friday, 21 April 2017


It is only the firm leadership of Archbishop Phillip Aspinall that appears to be preventing the clock turning backwards on child abuse reform in Brisbane's Anglican Diocese.

Powerful lawyers and establishment figures are mobilising to attack the Archbishop over his decision to begin to make amends for past harm to victims of abuse by failures in leadership.

A group of influential old boys of Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane is desperately trying to have a former headmaster's name reinstated on the school's library before the building is officially opened this evening (Friday 21 April).

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The library is a new incarnation of the original school library that was named in honour of Harry Roberts, the headmaster for 22 years from 1947-1969.

Roberts laid a foundation for the future of the school at a critical time in its history. Most of what he laid was secure.

However at least three pedophiles on the staff offended against multiple boys during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s during his tenure.

The offenders include teacher and boarding master Frederick Roy Hoskins (1947 - early 1980s); rowing coach Dr Fred Whitehouse (1948 - 49); and teacher Hamilton Leslie (1960 - 1963).

A fourth volunteer and employee, Harry Wippell, faced multiple charges against multiple students but died before a second trial.

Given the widespread abuse, Roberts failed in his duty to properly supervise his staff, failed to investigate suspicions, failed to believe reports of offending - or believed the reports but disregarded them.

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In some cases, offenders made admissions and Roberts sacked the offender - but none was reported to police.

Children were forsaken in order to preserve the school's elite brand and its reputation as a safe environment for boys living away from home.

It is for these failures, which resulted in offenders continuing to offend - and once dismissed, walking free for decades whilst victim children carried burdens of false shame and guilt all their lives - that have resulted, in recent years, in the Diocese of Brisbane beginning to make amends.

Many victims of the offending staff have asked for Roberts' name to be removed from the new library.

The School Council and the Diocese have examined their records and agreed this is a reasonable and necessary step as part of their apology for past failings.

This is not the re-writing of history as alleged by retired journalist Geoffrey Luck in a recent article in Quadrant and reproduced in The Australian last weekend - it is setting the record straight after decades of giving victims who gave reported abuse the triple D treatment: deny (allegations), delay (legal proceedings), defend (court actions).

To its credit, the Diocese of Brisbane has removed the names of leaders from places of conspicuous honour in several of its schools.

The opening of the library is expected to go ahead despite threats by the son of Harry Roberts demanding his father's name be reinstated.

Simmering unrest over the past year erupted this month in a vitriolic attack on Archbishop Aspinall.

In a 23-page letter of demands and accusations sent to the Archbishop and copied to old boys and Churchie organisations, Mr Roberts accused the Archbishop of removing his father's name as a 'diversion' to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Mr Roberts presented what he claimed was new evidence and demanded that the Archbishop reverse his decision.

He also demanded that the Archbishop 'admonish' the School Council for supplying him with 'flawed advice' that led to his father's name being removed from the building.

In previous correspondence in March this year, Archbishop Aspinall told Mr Roberts that having considered carefully additional material previously provided, he concluded that the new information 'does not add greatly' to information before the Churchie Council.

Archbishop Aspinall justified the decision saying Dr Roberts' failure in allowing self-confessed pedophile Hamilton Leslie 'to leave as a respected teacher' amounted to a failure of leadership because Leslie 'had admitted to the criminal conduct' but was allowed 'to remain on site with boys at the school' until the end of the term.

Peter Roberts concluded his letter with a list of demands including that the Archbishop should restore his father's name to the new library and defer the building's opening so family memorabilia can be added to the building.

The new building will be officially opened by Queensland Governor and Churchie old boy Paul de Jersey, a former Chancellor of the Diocese of Brisbane.

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Author declaration: Amanda Gearing has a relative who is a survivor of child sexual abuse.



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About the Author

Dr Amanda Gearing graduated with a Masters' Degree from QUT in 2012 and a PhD in Global investigative journalism in 2016. Amanda was The Courier-Mail's reporter in Toowoomba for ten years until 2007 and received several awards for her work including Best news Report (All Media) in 2002. She has written in Australia and the UK for national and state newspapers and has produced documentaries for ABC Radio National. In 2012 she won a Walkley Award for Best radio documentary for The day that changed Grantham. She also won a Clarion Award for her radio documentary A living sacrifice in 2013. Her non-fiction book The Torrent was published in 2012 and an updated edition will be published in February 2017.

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