The Survivor Story Project

The Survivor Story Project is a podcast that explores the experiences of survivors of church based institutional child sexual abuse in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese. The interviews were recorded between 2019-2021 by Dr Kathleen McPhillips a sociologist working in the field of institutional child sexual abuse and based in the Centre for the Study of Violence at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Kathleen leads the Interdisciplinary Trauma Research Network which explores the impacts of trauma from gender-based violence in interdisciplinary perspectives.

The aim of the Survivor Story podcast is to ensure that the valuable and important stories of survivors can continue to be told, and heard by the community, and that those responsible - the Church managers and paedophile priests - continue to be brought to justice. Each of the survivors tells their unique story of childhood, family, school life and adulthood and documents clearly the impact of being sexually abused as a child on their self-worth, mental health, relationships, work life and struggles to find justice. The courage demonstrated by each person in telling their story shines out and showing determination and resolve to seek justice for themselves and for others affected by this terrible travesty of childhood innocence. Listening to these remarkable interviews will be enlightening, challenging, and above all inspiring and moving.

Content warning and Ethics

The content in the following interviews contains distressing accounts of childhood sexual abuse. If you experience distress, please reach out for help:

1800 RESPECT: 24 hour phone support 1800 737732

LIFELINE: 24 hour phone support 13 11 14

BLUEKNOT Help Line: 9am-5pm phone support  1300 657 380

KIDS HELPLINE: 24 hour phone support 1800 551 800

RAPE CRISIS CENTRE 24 hour phone support 1800 424 017

The Survivor Story Project is funded by the Marist Brothers Australia in conjunction with its aim to engage in restorative justice processes for survivors of child sexual abuse in Marist schools in Australia. The Survivor Story Project has ethics approval from the University of Newcastle Australia, ethics approval reference number: H-2019-0195

The names of the participating survivors are their own except for CQT who opted to use a pseudonym.

Episode 1: Making Sense out of Confusion: How Grooming a Family Led to Abuse

Paul P grew up in Newcastle in a strong and loyal Catholic family who experienced financial and emotional difficulties in Paul’s early years. By age 11 he and his twin brother John were repeatedly abused by the local Catholic priest Peter Brock, who had become a close family friend, regularly taking the boys away on holidays and staying overnight. Paul describes very clearly the grooming techniques of Peter Brock and the way that music played a key element in keeping the abusive relationship close and secret. His friendship with the family caused on-going confusion for Paul for many years. Despite the challenges of his childhood, Paul became a successful musician and music teacher for many years until he became unwell as the abuse caught up with his mental health. His powerful story demonstrates his resilience and determination in coming to terms with what happened to him as a child and teenager and his ongoing commitment to dealing with the outcomes of sexual abuse as a child.

Episode 2: Losing One’s Innocence: Recovering from Sexual Violence in School and Society

Sharon grew up and attended Catholic schools in Newcastle and her family was involved in the local Catholic parish. In this podcast Sharon tells her story about growing up in a Catholic community, and her abuse as a teenager by a Catholic school teacher and principal at a small girl’s Catholic school San Clemente in Mayfield, and the impacts that this has had on her life. Sharon reflects on the ways in which her experiences during this time affected her deeply and how she was unable to complete her education.  She says ‘my innocence went, and I was forced to deal with an adult environment as a teenager’. Her relationships were damaged and she felt disconnected from her friends and family. Her adult life has been one of continually having to deal with the ongoing outcomes of the original abuse. Sharon demonstrates her resilience in coming to terms with what happened to her and her courage in speaking to continue her healing process and help others who have suffered similar experiences.

Episode 3: Recovering from Complex Trauma and the Power of the Human Spirit

Paul G is a survivor of complex and early organised child sexual abuse both within his family and in the Anglican church and is what he calls a ‘late rememberer’. Paul describes the debilitating physical and mental impacts of early and ongoing organised child sexual abuse and the tragic outcomes for himself, his siblings and family. His struggle to work out what happened to him has led him to numerous healing modalities that have helped Paul to heal from such deep damage. Paul describes the compound trauma that child sexual abuse caused and recounts his experience with the Royal Commission giving evidence at case study 42 on the Anglican Church in Newcastle in 2016. In particular, his physical and sexual abuse by serial paedophile Anglican priest Peter Rushton during his childhood was devastating. Paul’s courage in speaking about what happened to him, and his determination and perseverance in restoring his self-worth and mental health and recovering his memory, shines through in this remarkable interview.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.