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Marist Regional Faculty apologises to survivors of historic baby intercourse abuse

A Catholic college in northwest Tasmania, where six convicted sex offenders committed their crimes, has formally apologized to survivors of the abuse at the facility, saying that recognition of their failures to keep children safe is “long overdue”.

Important points:

  • Six people were arrested for child sex crimes, with allegations made against other deceased
  • Survivors spoke of their personal abuse stories
  • Survivors said apologizing was only the first step in a long healing process

More than 100 people gathered in Burnie’s Emu Valley Rhododendron Gardens for the Ritual of Lament.

They heard from three school abuse survivors as well as the school principal Gregg Sharman, the Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous and the Marist fathers of Australian father Tony Corcoran.

Six former employees were convicted of child sex offenses in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Another five who have died since then are charged with similar behavior in what is known as “Tasmania’s Ballarat”.

Director Gregg Sharman said it was time the college publicly anticipated its “terrible and tragic past.”

“Today we reflect on those who have betrayed the trust placed in them to knowingly and willingly harm our students, and we continue to reflect on the pain and suffering that were caused when the reactions of those in positions of power were unsatisfactory and failed “he said to the crowd.

“As the principal, I am here to apologize to any student who has been sexually assaulted for the irreversible effects this has had on your life and the lives of others … I am sorry.

“We ask for your forgiveness and after hearing your stories we cannot expect your forgiveness and we do not blame you if you find it difficult to forgive.”

Director Gregg Sharman said the college had “a terrible and tragic past”.

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Archbishop Porteous also apologized, saying he was “humbled” by the survivors’ courage to tell their stories – stories that often were not heard or recognized.

“We recognize that the actions taken by some on behalf of the Church at Marist College have severely damaged the lives of those entrusted to them,” he said.

“No words can adequately express our grief over the pain of survivors caused by those who were supposed to represent the love of God.”

Archbishop Porteous also admitted that the Church had failed to protect others from abuse.

“I am now born with distrust”

Survivor Peter Dwyer told the congregation about his care and abuse by Thomas Fulcher, who was jailed in 2018 after admitting sexually abusing two former students.

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“I am born with suspicion now, so I don’t even accept the apology, I really don’t know how to react to it other than withdrawing in suspicion and fear,” he said.

“I don’t know what words I want to hear from the Church and the Marists, and I think they don’t really know what to say or do.”

Fellow Survivor Kevin O’Sullivan said, “Words are cheap in our institutions and, in large part, apologies.”

“What really matters is action, a change in behavior that is real and genuine, that evolves, wants to be informed and that lasts,” he said.

Speakers also paid tribute to victims of abuse who did not survive and took their own lives in the decades since the abuse.

Paul O’Hallaran was ill-treated at Marist in the 1970s.

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Paul O’Hallaran was ill-treated like his brother Stephen in Marist in the 1970s and successfully campaigned for the Royal Commission to visit Tasmania to hear from the victims.

He said one thing that was not discussed during the event was the extent of the problem.

“My brother and I were there in the early 1960s, and of the 12 teachers, all of whom were priests, we now know for sure that five boys molested,” he said.

“We also know that at least two people, knowing full well that they were abusers, were transferred and then abused elsewhere,” said O’Hallaran.

“The basic question that I think needs to be answered is how it happened. What was the environment in northwest Tasmania where this was possible and not reported?”

Action key to healing

Their personal travels varied, but all of the survivors present agreed that apology and appreciation was only the first step in a long process.

Jill Maxwell, CEO of Sexual Assault Support Service, said apologies were well received when the conversation was backed up by action.

“For some survivors, it can re-start the trauma and they can be quite angry, but I think it’s overwhelming when survivors take this as a real excuse and see that changes have been made to keep it from happening again, I guess excuses are welcome, “said Mrs. Maxwell.

Mr O’Hallaran said the efforts made were legitimate.

People gathering for the ritual of lamentation at Burnie's Emu Valley Rhododendron Gardens.People gathered in Burnie’s Emu Valley Rhododendron Gardens for the ritual of lament. (

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“My personal opinion is that they have tried very sincerely to repair some of the damage that has been done to hundreds of people in northwest Tasmania,” he said.

“It’s a step towards reparation and recognition.”

Mr. Sharman said that was well understood.

He said the school would put up a plaque and educate staff about the abuse.

“We had 18 new employees in college this year and all of those employees completed child-safe modules before they had a day before the kids,” he said.

“The plaque will be a visible and tangible reminder of what happened, but it will also hope for a better future.”

Archbishop Porteous said in his seven years in the role the reality of the abuse has crept in and has motivated him to work hard to make sure it never happens again.

“The Catholic Church organizations here in Tasmania are committed to the well-being and safety of the children and vulnerable people who are in our care, and we have worked very seriously in many ways,” he said.

“There are two things. First, to take care of those who are suffering, and second, to ensure that we do all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of all who are in the care of the Church.”

A plaque with text.The plaque given to the school by survivors of child sexual abuse. ((

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