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Broken Rites Australia helps victims of church-related
By a Broken Rites researcher
This Broken Rites article demonstrates how easy it was to cover up sexual abuse in orphanages, where the children were alone, without access to their families. As shown in this article, the Christian Brothers in Australia have accepted complaints about a senior Brother — A.F. Webster — who was in charge of St Augustine's boys' orphanage in Geelong, Victoria.
Brother Aloysius Francis Webster — known to his colleagues and relatives as "Lou" Webster (short for Aloysius) or Frank Webster — was the superintendent (principal) at this orphanage from 1954 to 1959.
Webster died on 21 May 1990 and was buried with honour in the Christian Brothers' cemetery at Bundoora, Melbourne. After his death, a sports oval at another Christian Brothers school was named the "A.F. Webster Oval" in Webster's honour — until a victim forced the Christian Brothers to remove Webster's name from this oval.
Webster's victims — and their families — are still feeling the effects of Webster's abuse and the effects of the church's culture of cover-up.
Broken Rites has interviewed two survivors from Webster's time at St Augustine's orphanage.
Survivor 1: SteveOne boy at St Augustine's orphanage was "Steve" (born in 1941). In 2007, when he was aged 66, Steve complained to the Catholic Church "professional standards office" (also known as "Towards Healing") that he had been sexually abused by Brother Webster in the 1950s. Steve backed up his complaint by submitting a detailed report, written by his psychologist, demonstrating how Steve's life had been adversely affected by Webster's sexual abuse and (equally importantly) by the cover-up.
"Steve" (not his real name) was born in Victoria to an unmarried mother and he did not know his father. At the age of two, he was sent to an orphanage in Bendigo (northern Victoria) for three years and then to another orphanage in Brighton (Melbourne) for three years. In 1950, aged nine, he was taken to St Augustine's orphanage in Geelong, where he lived until he was fifteen.
Steve told Broken Rites in 2008: "Brother Webster came to St Augustine's in early 1954, when I was still only 12, and the abuse started shortly after this. He abused me for more than two years."
Steve's experiences at the orphanage are outlined in a report by his psychologist, written in May 2007. The following account is from the psychologist's report, although Broken Rites has changed the victim's name to "Steve" to protect his privacy:
Apology to SteveThe Christian Brothers' Australian headquarters accepted Steve's complaint and sent him a letter dated 31 July 2008, stating: "We [the Christian Brothers] are genuinely sorry for the actions and attitudes to which you were subjected."
The Christian Brothers paid some compensation to Steve in an out-of-court settlement, in return for Steve surrendering his right to sue the Christian Brothers in the civil courts. This out-of-court settlement was a cheap way for the Christian Brothers to protect their organisation from any further liability.
Survivor 2: Boris"Boris" (born in 1942) lived at St Augustine's orphanage from the age of 10 to 16, and he says he was sexually abused by Brother Aloysius Francis Webster and others.
In 1994, Boris told Broken Rites: "At the orphanage, the Brothers would drink alcohol at night and then one or more of them would come to our dormitory to pick a boy to molest. At age 13 or 14, Brother Wilfred Eastmure forced me to masturbate him several times a week, during a two-year period.
"Webster, as the head of the orphanage, knew what the Brothers were doing and he used to say that, if we reported the assaults, he would punish us severely. Anyway, Webster said, nobody would believe no-hopers like us orphanage boys. Webster was helped by the fact that the church cultivated a public image about priests and Christian Brothers being above suspicion."
Boris described his experience of Brother Webster: "When I was about 14, Webster tried to force me to give him oral sex. Because I resisted this, he was cruel to me for the next few years — for example, giving me floggings."
By 1994, Boris was living in Rockhampton, in central Queensland. That year, he phoned Broken Rites saying that he had recently learned that St Brendan's College (a Christian Brothers school at Yeppoon, near Rockhampton) had named its new sports oval as the "A.F. Webster Oval" in honour of Brother Webster. The oval had a wooden sign, with Webster's name on it.
After consulting Broken Rites, Boris complained to the Christian Brothers headquarters about this honouring of Brother Frank Webster and demanded that the sign be removed. A senior Christian Brother from Brisbane travelled to Rockhampton in 1994 to confer with Boris. By 2008, all mentions of Brother A.F. Webster had been removed from the school's signage and this was reported on the WIN Television Rockhampton news bulletin on 28 March 2008.
Boris says he will never forget the abuse inflicted on boys by Christian Brother Aloysius Francis Webster and others.