Announcement of Chair and CEO of Church Council for Royal Commission

Francis Sullivan

Media Release 12 DECEMBER 2012

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) support the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.

Archbishop Denis Hart, President of the ACBC, and Sr Annette Cunliffe RSC, Chair of CRA, reiterated the Catholic Church’s support for the Royal Commission and the Church’s desire to openly embrace and co-operate with its work.

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Hart said that, “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.”

The Catholic Church’s leaders have recognised that the Royal Commission will demand a sophisticated and co-ordinated response across the country.

To that end the Church has established a national co-ordinating body, to be referred to as the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, to oversee the Church’s engagement with the Royal Commission and the pastoral and other ramifications that have arisen
from the sexual abuse scandal.

Justice Barry O’Keefe

The Honourable Barry O’Keefe AM QC and Mr Francis Sullivan will be chair and CEO respectively of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council which 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

Mr O’Keefe is a former Commissioner of NSW’s Independent Commission Against
Corruption, a former Chief Judge 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.

Mr 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 Council 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.

Mr Sullivan said that, “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.”

Sr Annette Cunliffe

“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 fully supports 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.

The Bishops and the religious leaders of the Catholic Church acknowledge the pain
and suffering experienced by victims of child abuse and their families. Our hearts
and prayers are with them and with those charged with the responsibilities of serving
on the Royal Commission.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: JAMES O’FARRELL 0437 661 030 (no sms please)