A Marist Brother has been jailed for some of his victims, and another victim has died by suicide

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 1 February 2019

Australian Marist Brother David Austin Christian was recruited by the Marist Brothers at the age of 15 and became a fully-fledged Brother at 18. During his career (including as a school principal), he was sexually abusing young boys. Years later, some of these victims began to speak (as adults) to child-protection detectives in the state police force. This resulted in David Christian being jailed when he was in his seventies. But how many other victims of Brother David Christian have NOT spoken to the police? For example, one of Brother David Christian's ex-students died by suicide at the age of 21, leaving a suicide note about how his life had been damaged by Brother David Christian.

More details about the suicide are given at the end of this article.

This Broken Rites article demonstrates how it is best for victims to exercise their right to consult the detectives.

For many years, the Marist Brothers in Australia were divided into two Provinces. The northern province was for New South Wales and Queensland. David Austin Christian (date of birth 3 December 1942) belonged to the southern province which supplied Marists Brothers to various schools in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

Brother David Christian's court appearances were in Western Australia. He was charged after police received statements from several former pupil's of two Catholic schools:

  • St Joseph's parish primary school in Bunbury, south of Perth, in 1982; and
  • Newman College junior school ( Marist Brothers) in Churchlands, Perth, in the 1990s.

These were not necessarily the only schools where David Christian offended. These are merely two schools where some of his victims eventually spoke (as adults) to detectives from West Australian Police. Broken Rites has heard of other alleged victims from these two schools who have not taken up the opportunity of speaking to the detectives.

First court case, 1995

Brother David Austin Christian, formerly principal of Marist Brothers' Newman College junior school in Perth, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault against two boys (aged 10 and 11) in the principal's office. In a Perth court in 1995, Christian was fined $10,500 ($1,500 per incident) but the Marist Order said it would pay the fine for him. Brother Christian moved to live with the Marist Brothers in Templestowe, Melbourne. According to Marist websites (accessed in 2011), Brother David Christian continued to be accepted by his superiors and colleagues as a member of the Marist order.

Second court case, 2014

In the W.A. District Court in 2014, Brother David Christian was convicted of one count of indecently dealing with a child (a ten-year-old boy). This offence was committed in 1982 at St Joseph's primary school in Bunbury, south of Perth. The court gave David Christian a nine months suspended jail sentence.

Third court case, early 2017

In the same court on 10 January 2017, Brother David Christian was convicted of two offences of indecently dealing with a another child (a ten-year-old boy). This abuse was committed in 1982 at the same primary school (St Joseph's in Bunbury) as the third court case.

Sentencing David Christian, Judge O'Neal told him: "You were the principal of the school that this ten-year-old boy attended. You wrapped yourself in a public profession of Christian religiosity as a Marist Brother."

The judge said the offending has had a "catastrophic effect" on the psychological health and wellbeing of the victim.

"Despite high academic achievement as a child, [the victim] left school early with an understandable problem with authority figures like teachers... He [has] had a complete breakdown. He has been struggling with drug and alcohol issues, and his life is at a very low point", the judge said.

"This case is among the most serious examples of breach of trust."

"In view of the seriousness of these offences, a term of imprisonment is the only appropriate disposition."

The judge sentenced Christian to 16 months jail for each of the two incidents. The judge reduced each term to 12 months, to be served consecutively, making a total of two years, with parole possible after 12 months behind bars.

Fourth court case, late 2017

While David Christian was in jail, another of his victims was speaking to the police regarding two incidents that occurred in 1991 at Perth's Newman College junior school when this boy was aged 12 in Year 7. Brother David Christian was the junior school's principal.

On 5 December 2017, David Christian (then aged 75) pleaded guilty in the W.A. District Court to two incidents of indecently dealing with this boy.

The boy had already been a victim of bullying at the school, the court was told. Brother David Christian summoned this boy to his office. The boy was placed on Christian's lap, and the indecent dealing then occurred.

District Court Judge Mark Herron said David Christian knew the child was particularly vulnerable before the abuse occurred. He said Christian traumatised and confused the victim through his gross abuse of trust.

“Given your position of trust you should have been protecting the child and ensuring he was safe,” Judge Herron said. “Your actions undermine the trust and confidence members of the public, particularly parents, have when they place their children in the care of schools.”

Judge Heron sentenced David Christian to an additional six months jail.

Out of jail

In January 2019. a victim informed Broken Rites that Br David Christian has been released from jail and is returning to live with other Brothers at a Marist residence in another state.

That is, Brother David Austin Christian is still accepted as a member of the Marist Brothers order, despite being a convicted criminal. But there is mothing unusual about this — the Marist Brothers organization already retains a significant number of child-sex offenders as Brothers.

Suicide

Broken Rites has learned that one former student at Perth's Newman College (during Brother David Christian's time as primary principal there) has died by suicide. Broken Rites will refer to this ex-student as "Basil" (not his real name).

In November 2018, Broken Rites interviewed Basil's mother. This mother said (and Broken Rites is changing the boy's name to "Basil"):-

"In 1991, Basil was in Year 7 (aged twelve) at Newman College, Perth, and his class was being taught by a lay teacher. When Basil misbehaved, this teacher sent Basil to Brother David Christian (principal of the primary-level classes) to be disciplined for this misbehaviour. Evidently, Brother David Christian began to sexually abuse Basil, although we did not know this at the time. This abuse evidently disrupted Basil's life. He became alienated from schoolwork and he became a hermit. By the end of Year 7, we had to transfer Basil to a government high school.

"Basil continued to remain silent about his Year Seven abuse. He concealed the abuse from us because he presumed that our very devout Catholic family would not welcome this news and that we would not believe him. During his later teenage years, Basil's behaviour deteriorated even more. His life became in a mess. By the age of 21, he had attempted suicide. The family did not know why.

"Finally, on 10 November 2001, aged 22, he succeeded in dying by suicide. His body was found by his sister. He left a note, telling us (for the first time) that he had been abused by Brother David Christian in Year 7. Unfortunately, his sister was no upset that she destroyed the suicide note. But we managed to find out more from a psychiatrist who Basil had been seeing. The psychiatrist confirmed that Basil's was feeling damaged by the abuse he suffered under Brother David Christian. At last, we learned (too late) the story behind Basil's troubled life."

Broken Rites is continuing its research about Marist Brother David Christian.