Lismore abuse survivor Richard Tommy Campion leads compensation charge against Anglican church (ABC) - ( 4U5TR4L14 )
A survivor of abuse at an Anglican children’s home in northern NSW is pushing for adequate compensation and an apology from the church for the abuse he and his fellow victims endured.
Public hearings for the royal commission into child sex abuse set down for November will examine how complaints of abuse at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore were handled by the Anglican diocese of Grafton, which ran the home, and the civil legal action in 2006 and 2007.
Leading the charge against the church is Richard Tommy Campion, who was in the Lismore home from the late 1940s to 1963.
He launched the campaign to have the church admit it had a legal duty of care for the orphans who were sexually and physically abused in the home.
He is now hoping the commission will lead to public apologies to individual victims and compensation.
“I can say it was a hell-hole,” Mr Campion said of his time in the home.
“Brutal bashings, children were flogged with broomsticks, canes, pony whips, belts. Children were locked in cupboards. Children were made to stand on one leg – if they fell over, they’d be belted and flogged.
“If the child weed the bed, they’d be paraded in the dormitory with the sheets over their head, (to say) ‘this would be a lesson to you guys if you do this’.”
Nightmares of being flogged stirred victim’s campaign
When the trauma of the abuse surfaced decades later, Mr Campion approached the church which ran the orphanage.
“I started having really strong nightmares of myself being flogged, and other children being beaten and flogged,” he said.
“I could visualise it through the day, and I decided I had to do something about it. All I wanted to do was tell the church what happened.”
Mr Campion said the church assured him that because he was in a home that should have been safe but was not, he would be financially compensated.
“While they were doing that I decided that there was all these other children in the home, people I loved and still remembered. I decided I won’t take that money, I’ll wait and I’ll go and find these children.
“So I advertised in newspapers, (saying) ‘if anyone was in the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home, please ring this number’. And people started ringing; the phone rang off the hook.
He said the church then changed its position.
“They didn’t want to know anything about me because they heard there was other children coming forward. They started fighting back.”
Church’s payout offering ‘chicken feed’
The church argued it did not have a duty of care and therefore was not legally liable but said it had a moral responsibility to respond to the claims and chose to settle them quickly.Â
While some accepted the financial settlement, Mr Campion could not.
“There was an agreement done in a back room between a lawyer and the church and that meant that the children got some money…’We are a compassionate church, so here is your money’,” he said.
Mr Campion said the church offered $ 800,000 to the group of 41 victims, an amount he described as “chicken feed”.
“It depends on how much you were damaged,” he said of the split. “Some people ended up with $ 5,000.”
Mr Campion and his sister refused the payment.
“I wanted the truth. Simple.”
Still waiting on compensation, apologyÂ
Four months ago, the bishop of the Anglican diocese of Grafton, Keith Slater, resigned and apologised for his failure to properly manage the claims of abuse.
Mr Campion welcomes the inquiry in November, but he still has a wish list.
“All I need now is for the children to be paid,” he said.
“I can’t put a figure on it or anything like that. I just want them to be compensated, in full… to have something that they mightn’t have had in their life, to be able to do something special for their family.
“And I need more apologies from them – I need personal ones for every child.”