In a media conference this morning, Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) President Sr Annette Cunliffe rsc announced the establishment of a national co-ordinating body to oversee the Church’s engagement with the Royal Commission and the other ramifications that have arisen from the sexual abuse scandal. It will be referred to as the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, headed by The Honourable Barry O’Keefe AM QC and Dr Francis Sullivan as Chair and CEO, respectively.
The Council will include representatives from the community to provide expertise, wisdom and guidance over the course of the Royal Commission. The Council will comprise men and women with professional and other expertise and importantly will seek to have an effective on-going relationship with people who have been damaged by the sexual abuse scandal.
Mr O’Keefe is a former Commissioner of NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, a former Chief Judge of the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Chairman of Interpol’s International Group of Experts on Corruption, Chairman of the International Anticorruption Conference and was Mayor of Mosman. He is a consultant to law firm Clayton Utz and was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at Notre Dame University in 2005.
Dr Sullivan has worked in Government and private practice, and has held positions as Secretary-General of the Australian Medical Association, Chief Executive of Catholic Health Australia, and consultant to the Pontifical Counsel for the Pastoral Care of Health Care workers at the Vatican. He is an Adjunct Professor at Australian Catholic University and was the Chairman of the University’s Canberra Campus Review panel.
In the media conference, Sr Annette Cunliffe rsc also announced that Dr Maree Marsh csb will be the Religious representative to the Council.
Archbishop Denis Hart reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s support for the Royal Commission. “I am confident that the Royal Commission will enable an examination of the issues associated with child abuse nationally and the identification of measures for better preventing and responding to child abuse in all those institutions that work with children,” he said.
Dr Sullivan emphasised, "This is a crucial time for the Catholic Church.We need to be open and transparent with the interests of victims and their families always our number one concern."
"It is our sincere hope that with honesty and compassion we may be able to provide justice and healing to victims and their families as well as restore the confidence of those who have become disaffected with the church, its people and processes."
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council aims to fully support the Royal Commission and will do everything within its power to cooperate with it and its exploration of truth for everyone who has been affected by the tragedy of child abuse by:
* Identifying systematic institutional failures that have impeded the protection of children;
* Promoting lasting healing for the survivors of previous abuse;
* Identifying all necessary measures to prevent abuse of children in the future.
Further announcements will be made in due course on the membership of the Council and the details of its operation.
Media enquiries concerning this announcement should be made to JAMES O'FARRELL, 0412 213 692 (no SMS please).