Child abuse and the church, media and police

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I write this column from a perspective born of longstanding personal relationships, but seeking to maintain objectivity. I've been a Catholic priest for almost 33 years. Two of the inspiring priests of my life have been Michael Hayes, long time chaplain to Aborigines in the diocese of Rockhampton, and Grove Johnson, my father's first cousin who was rector of the seminary in Sydney and a very pastoral parish priest particularly at the bustling seaside parish of Yeppoon on the central Queensland coast. Mick died back in November 2011 and Grove died just in January this year.

On Thursday, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin assassinated the public reputations of these deceased priests. I was on the phone immediately to the Morning Bulletin chief reporter Christine McKee. She disclosed that neither she nor the complainant quoted in the story knew whether Grove was alive or dead. I assured her that if he were alive, the paper would already have received an injunction. The chief reporter told me that I should accept that Catholic priests are doing this sort of thing all over the world and it's time we accepted that these things would be revealed. Having chaired the committee that rewrote the journalists' code of ethics for the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance in 1999, I was taken aback. Without even checking whether Grove was alive and in a position to defend himself, the Morning Bulletin had published these censorious claims:

'Now 60, Tjanara Goreng Goreng — then called Pam Williams — went to school at the Range Convent in Rockhampton. She was six years old the first time she says she was raped in 1964. Her father had left her at the Rockhampton Presbytery with Father Hayes, who she knew well. But after giving her lemonade, she said he took her upstairs and left her with another priest, Grove Johnson, who hypnotised and raped her. At 11 years old, and already suffering years of abuse, she says the two men raped her one after the other.'

Back in April 2015, I was shocked when an Aboriginal woman told the royal commission that the deceased Mick Hayes had sexually assaulted her as a child. I was even more shocked when I learnt in August 2016 that Tjanara Goreng Goreng had made a complaint to the police about both Mick Hayes and Grove Johnson. The complaint had been lodged in December 2015 but Grove was not informed until 19 August 2016. The police move slowly on these matters in central Queensland. Grove immediately engaged a lawyer. Being in his 90s, he wanted the matter resolved as quickly as possibly. He was devastated that anyone could even think that it was imaginable that he would do such a thing.

Grove's lawyer ascertained from the investigating police officer that the allegations were that Grove and Mick had raped the complainant on a number of occasions between 1964 and 1969 and that the offending took place in Longreach and on one occasion in Rockhampton.

At the request of the police, various inquiries were made to establish that Grove had never been posted in Longreach as a priest either permanently or temporarily. The police also made their own inquiries. In fact, Grove had never been to Longreach in his life. When he wasn't working as a priest in Sydney or Paris, he was always parish priest on the coast. He was definitely not one for the outback life. The police did not speak to Grove until 5 July 2017 when Grove and his lawyer participated in an interview with Senior Constable Ben Pedesta. At the conclusion of the interview, Pedesta confirmed that the 18 month investigation had been finalised; no charges would be laid and the police file would be closed. The lawyer sought a commitment from Pedesta that he would communicate this decision to the Diocese and Pedesta agreed to do so. Grove was allowed to get on with his life celebrating daily Mass in his nursing home.

On Thursday, the chief reporter at the Morning Bulletin informed me: 'This is the response from the detective handling the complaint: "Officers attached to Rockhampton Child Protection and Investigation Unit investigated historical sexual offence allegations against both Father Grove Johnson and Michael Hayes. Father Hayes was deceased at the time certain complaints were made. Father Grove Johnson died prior to any QPS actions being taken against him."' This police statement published in the Morning Bulletin yesterday was misleading at best and incorrect. It implies that QPS action was at least being contemplated when in fact the police investigation had concluded by July 2017 with no charges being laid; the file was closed.

 

"The royal commission has done some great things for this country, but the fruits can be enjoyed only if all institutions, including the media and the police, do their jobs competently and ethically."

 

In August 2012, Ms Goreng Goreng had published an article discussing her 'recovery from physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse through traditional Western psychotherapy with a psychiatrist who specialised in dissociative identity disorder (DID), combined with healing from Ngunkari, traditional Aboriginal healers'. She described a terrifying childhood in Longreach often sleeping 'in the laundry on the camp bed with the dogs; this was quite traumatic and scary as it was dark and the door to the house was locked. I would often sit on the stairs, banging on the door and crying to be let in — to no avail.' She wrote, 'When I was five a Catholic priest in Longreach began to abuse me sexually.'

She attended boarding school at the Range Covent in Rockhampton from the age of 12. She wrote, 'Most of this time was a haze to me. I had begun drinking altar wine when I was about seven years old as the priest who abused me gave it to me. I drank it regularly until I was 15 years old, and then began to drink Scotch whisky with some Catholic priests at the bishop's house, where I went to do typing for the Aboriginal and Islander Catholic Council. It was during this time that I met the other priests who sexually abused me until the age of 18.' She often travelled to Brisbane to train as a swimmer. 'It only stopped after one of the priests, Fr Wright, tried to have sex with me one night.'

So in 2012, Ms Goreng Goreng claimed that one unnamed priest abused her in Longreach when she was five, and that other unnamed priests abused her in Rockhampton between the ages of 15 and 18. When writing in 2012, she did not claim that any of the alleged clerical abuse had been rape. In particular, she did not claim to have been raped by anyone in Rockhampton when aged six or 11.

In November 2012, Ms Goreng Goreng was interviewed on ABC radio about how she was 'repeatedly sexually abused by a Catholic priest over several years while attending boarding school at the Range Convent in Rockhampton'. The priest was Fr Leo Wright. She described how she reached a church settlement for Fr Wright's criminal behaviour. At the time she made no mention of rapes or sexual assaults by Frs Hayes or Johnson. She said that she spoke to a number of bishops in New South Wales and Queensland in 1996 and 1997 telling them about what she had suffered, yet neither Bishop Heenan nor Bishop McCarthy (the relevant Rockhampton bishops) ever heard any complaint from any bishop in New South Wales or Queensland about the behaviour of Frs Hayes and Johnson.

Why didn't Ms Goreng tell the bishops about these rapes back then? And why when promoting her book, due for release today, did she state on radio on 28 June 2018 that the abuse she suffered 'happened to me when I was 13 to 18' years old?

Even dead Catholic priests deserve their reputation. No doubt, Fr Wright's criminal actions caused great harm to Ms Goreng Goreng. As a priest and as a fellow citizen, I feel both shame and hurt at what Ms Goreng Goreng has suffered at the hands of Fr Wright. But I don't think her belated inconsistent rape claims against the deceased Fr Hayes and Fr Johnson should go uncontested. Between August 2016 and July 2017 Fr Johnson — by then a frail and elderly man — had his entire life placed under a cloud during torturous months of waiting for justice and truth.

If this example is anything to go by, from here on in, in contemporary Australia, all Catholic priests are fair game. Once we are dead, our reputations are at the hands of media and police personnel — some of whom at least have a very jaundiced view of all Catholic priests.

The royal commission has done some great things for this country, but the fruits can be enjoyed only if all institutions, including the media and the police, do their jobs competently and ethically. This week in Rockhampton, both institutions succumbed to pillorying Catholic clergy regardless of the evidence and the need for due process.

I pray for victims and survivors of abuse, and for all members of our Church, hoping that the bishops' response to the royal commission published yesterday will help to make all church places safe for children. I have 'zero tolerance' for anyone who is a child abuser, whether or not they are a priest. I have spent my life with faith in the Church, our legal system, our constitutional framework and our media. All are being sorely tested at this time. Many survivors have, in the past, had their claims of abuse summarily dismissed and questioned. Allegations of abuse without doubt need to be investigated.

However, there is great danger and harm in accepting claims of abuse where allegations are not supported by evidence and where investigation by proper channels does not support those claims. Over time, some victims, like Ms Goreng Goreng, through trauma or otherwise, extend the web of guilt to the innocent. That's why the law and the media need to do their job. When the law and the media do their job competently, we can work together to ensure that children are safe and that initiatives such as the national redress scheme deliver truth, justice and healing for all. Once they join a populist movement without regard to the important role they play in ensuring that truth and justice are done, all society is in trouble.

 

 

Frank BrennanFr Frank Brennan SJ will be in conversation with investigative journalist Joanne McCarthy at the Sydney Crime Writers Festival today discussing the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, Mark Coleridge, royal commission, clergy sexual abuse

 

 

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Pam Williams also known by her fictitious blackfella name Tjanara Goreng Goreng is one of seven children of Maureen and George Williams. She is the middle child born in 1958. I am her older brother. It is beyond dispute that she was sexually abused by Fr Leo Wright and he was dealt with according to the law. Now for whatever reason she has accused more priests of sexually abusing her, firstly in Longreach in 1964 when she was six years old and then again at The Range Convent when she was a teenager. There are several inconsistencies in Pam's stories and if she ever had to be cross examined on her "evidence" in a court of law she would undoubtedly be shown to be a fraud. I could write a polemic on Pams litany of lies throughout her life but this space doesn't allow me to take such liberties. Two things worth mentioning are an article in the Canberra Times by the journalist Norman Abjorensen who waxed lyrical about her as being the face of reconciliation, an articulate , highly educated Aborigine with an Honours degree in Political Science and numerous high level jobs. The article was passed onto me from a blackfella colleague who thought it hilarious. I rang the journalist and told him it was a fabulous story to which he agreed wholeheartedly, I wish I could have seen the look on his face when I told him it was a crock of shit and that Pam did not (at the time) have a university degree let alone Honours and that if he had checked her background thoroughly would have found a number of inconsistencies in her employment. In around 1988 when I lived in Melbourne one day my mother rang me in tears, she told me that someone from the Family Court had called her and said that Pam told him they were alcoholics and used to bash her senseless (At the time Pam was going through a custody battle for her child in the Family Court, interestingly custody was granted to the father) I called the fellow at the court and advised him there were six other children who would swear that Pam was lying and that she has a propensity to tell lies whenever it may be advantageous to her. I explained to him that our parents sweated blood to give us a better life than they had. Both these examples are "off the top of my head" but can be substantiated by the court transcripts and the original Canberra Times article Don't bother asking how she came about her fictitious blackfella name depending on which day of the week or which way the wind blows you'll get a different answer and each will undoubtedly be a lie. I would caution people to take anything Pam says with a bucket of salt not a grain. As previously stated Pam Williams is my sister and as the lawyer in our family on a number of occasion at the behest of other members of my family I have had to threaten her with legal action because of her lies about and deception of my parents.
Kevin Williams | 01 September 2018


The article by Fr Brennan went a long way to restoring my faith in the church, which has taken a bit of a pounding lately. I knew Fr Hayes pretty well, ( through the sport of basketball ) and I was at school with his brother. I remember Fr Johnson from when I went to mass at Yeppoon. Some of my family were in Neerkol. So I tune in when something like this crops up. I will be reading with interest Father Brennan's future articles. Thanks.
Frank Haack | 01 September 2018


1. You have misquoted me. 2. Over the past few days your claims have been wrong on a number of occasions and when corrected you send revised statements. 3. The case, regardless of what Ben Podesta may have said was not closed it was put on hold due to insufficient evidence at the time. You insist the police are lying. 4. When Tjanara’s brother called me (yelling and swearing at me) to say she was a liar and “everyone” knew it, I asked him for names to verify. I never heard from him. My further enquiries reassured me she is telling the truth. 6. You won’t comment on separate allegations against Fr Hayes during RC but can you, as CEO of Catholic Social Justice explain why Leo Wright, after being convicted of 20+ sex abuse charges in late 1990s, was working as a companion to victims at Catholic-run Bethel on the Gold Coast in 2002?
Christine | 01 September 2018


COMMENT 1 Christine McKee Chief Reporter at the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin has now written claiming that I have misquoted her (but without any reference to any particular misquote). And this at the time that the Murdoch empire is about to syndicate her stories around the country. So it might be helpful for me to provide a series of posts which highlight what has gone on in recent days, and how difficult it is to provide accurate reportage when dealing with a reporter like Ms McKee. After the publication of her first article on Thursday, I commenced a series of discussions with her. She told me that Ms Goreng Goreng claimed to have spoken to the Bishop of Rockhampton when he was in Brisbane in 1988, wanting to raise allegations of sexual assault by priests other than Fr Leo Wright. This rather surprised me. After the conversation, I wrote to her saying, ‘Thanks for the further conversation. Given that you are proceeding with further publication, I do ask that you publish in full my response. I was very surprised to hear the fresh claim by Ms Goreng that she had told the long deceased Bishop Bernard Wallace about the alleged rapes by Frs Hayes and Johnson back in 1988-9. There is of course no way of checking with the deceased. But I presume she concedes by implication that she did not disclose this information in her later conversations in 1996-7 with Bishops Robinson and Gerry and Archbishop Bathersby. And it is common ground that she never made the claims to the last two bishops of Rockhampton, Heenan and McCarthy who have respectively occupied the office since 1991. They are both still alive.’ After the publication of her third article on Saturday, I wrote, ‘I note the quote in today’s article where you have interposed the name Heenan: “I requested a meeting with the Bishop (Brian Heenan) in Brisbane in 1988. He didn’t want to know names. He told me not to tell him, but to go to the police. I said I was going to, but I wanted to tell him first.” That did rather surprise me. You will recall our conversation about this matter, and the email I sent you.’ She replied: ‘That is what she told me Frank.’ I replied, ‘I don’t doubt that. But even you know that much must be false. And you still publish it as fact. You know that Heenan was not bishop until 1991. You know that Wallace was the bishop in 1988. You know that Wallace is dead. I have submitted a comment to the piece. Please publish it promptly and untampered.’ That request for the right to a prompt untampered clarification prompted this response: ‘Frank, I’m sorry that was a typo. It should have read 1998. I’ve corrected the online version and will put a correction in Monday’s paper.’ So am I now to presume that the discussion we had on Thursday about Ms Goreng Goreng complaining to the bishop in 1988 was also ‘a typo’ to be airbrushed out of the story?
Frank Brennan | 01 September 2018


COMMENT 2 On Friday afternoon, I received a phone call from Aboriginal lawyer Kevin Williams. I have known Kevin for a long time but had not seen or heard from him in some years. He told me that he was the brother of Pam Williams who was featured in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin. He told me that he had phoned the Chief Reporter Christine McKee to warn about his sister. I then wrote to Christine McKee at the Morning Bulletin simply stating: ‘I’m pleased you’ve had a conversation with Kevin Williams.’ She replied: ‘I have, and after speaking to the publisher, the author and The Australian we have decided to publish tomorrow. I heard him and pressed him but he couldn't offer me any solid reason not to, just generalised claims and lots of swearing. My real concern is with the local Catholic community.’ Kevin’s comment posted on this site gives some indication of the sorts of matters which he raised with Ms McKee. And how interesting to note that the decision to go ahead with further scurrilous publication was taken after speaking with the Murdoch flagship The Australian.
Frank Brennan | 01 September 2018


COMMENT 3 On Friday morning after the publication of the Morning Bulletin’s second instalLment, I wrote to the Chief Reporter Christine McKee stating: I write to confirm that yesterday at 1.08pm, I wrote: ‘Thank you for our discussions during the course of the day. Attached, in light of our discussions, is my slightly revised piece which I would ask you to consider for publication. If you are not minded to publish, I would presume that you would quote only what I have written in this response. If there is any other matter on which you would like to quote me, please get back to me and check your copy.’ We agreed that you would quote only from the written response I provided for publication and from the email I sent on of 5 July 2017 from Grove Johnson’s lawyer. And that if you wanted to quote anything else I had said to you in broad ranging conversations during the day, you would get back to me. You did not. Instead you have run a story with the headline ‘Syd¬ney priest says sex claims ‘in¬con¬ceiv¬able’. Let’s leave aside that I’m not from Sydney. We already know that geography doesn’t matter to you, whether it be Sydney or Canberra, Longreach or Rockhampton. I had already given you my address. You go on to state in the article, ‘He says it’s “inconceivable” the men could have done what they are accused of’. My only use of the word ‘inconceivable’ was the sentence in one of my emails to you at 12.30 surmising as to why the police terminated their investigation of Grove after 18 months. I wrote of their fatuous statement to you: ‘That is simply untrue. Grove and his lawyer were pressing the police to finalise matters by interviewing him once he was informed of the complaint on 19 August 2016. The police then conducted investigations into whether Grove had ever been to Longreach because the complainant alleged a number of things in relation to Longreach and one matter in relation to Rockhampton. They were very dilatory, and the delay caused Grove great anxiety. They then conducted a brief interview with him with his lawyer in attendance on 5 July 2017 and formally closed the investigation indicating that no further action would be taken. And none was taken. The QPS had decided to take no action whatever against him, and that was when he was well and truly alive. I can only presume that the police rightly thought that it was highly improbable that Grove had ever been to Longreach and thus the prospect of any complaint alleging that he had done a number of things mostly in Longreach being upheld as to be inconceivable.’ I did not say ‘it’s “inconceivable” the men could have done what they are accused of’. I appreciate that you are not a lawyer, and that you might not appreciate the difference between my statement and the one you claim I made. You are a journalist and an unprofessional one at that. I will proceed to provide what public clarification I can of these matters in whatever way I can. Not only did you quote me out of context. You put it in the headline and ran it as the main part of the story. If only you had honoured our agreement that you would get back to check your copy, this further misunderstanding could have been avoided.’ Ms McKee responded with a number of points including: ‘I have changed the reference to Sydney to Canberra. ‘Jesus was not afraid of the establishment and neither am I. There are many victims in these stories and that includes the Catholic community here in Rockhampton. There are no doubt many priests in Australia who have still not come to the attention of the authorities. Your attempts to belittle me are a small taste of how difficult it must be for already vulnerable people to speak out knowing what they will be up against. It is vital their stories are told to give them courage to come forward or at least talk to someone they trust.’
Frank Brennan | 01 September 2018


COMMENT 4 This was the statement which the Morning Bulletin declined to publish: The Morning Bulletin has published ‘The Sins of the Father’ (30/8), a first instalment of an ‘explosive tell-all book’ by Ms Goreng Goreng. The publication trashes the reputation of two dead priests who served in the Rockhampton diocese for many decades. But the story does not add up. In August 2012, Ms Goreng Goreng published an article discussing her ‘recovery from physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse through traditional Western psychotherapy with a psychiatrist who specialised in dissociative identity disorder (DID), combined with healing from Ngunkari, traditional Aboriginal healers’. She described a traumatic and scary childhood in Longreach often sleeping ‘in the laundry on the camp bed with the dogs; this was quite traumatic and scary as it was dark and the door to the house was locked. I would often sit on the stairs, banging on the door and crying to be let in – to no avail.’ She wrote, ‘When I was five a Catholic priest in Longreach began to abuse me sexually.’ She attended boarding school at the Range Covent in Rockhampton from the age of twelve. She writes, ‘Most of this time was a haze to me. I had begun drinking altar wine when I was about seven years old as the priest who abused me gave it to me. I drank it regularly until I was 15 years old, and then began to drink Scotch whisky with some Catholic priests at the bishop’s house, where I went to do typing for the Aboriginal and Islander Catholic Council. It was during this time that I met the other priests who sexually abused me until the age of 18.’ She often travelled to Brisbane to train as a swimmer. ‘It only stopped after one of the priests, Fr Wright, tried to have sex with me one night.’ So in 2012, she claimed that one priest abused her in Longreach when she was 5, and that other priests abused her in Rockhampton between the ages of 15 and 18. When writing in 2012, she did not claim to have been raped by any priest at any age. Now she says that she was raped in Rockhampton by Frs Hayes and Johnson when she was 6 years old, and then again when she was 11 years old. In November 2012, Ms Goreng Goreng was interviewed on ABC radio about how she was ‘repeatedly sexually abused by a Catholic priest over several years while attending boarding school at the Range Convent in Rockhampton’. The priest was Fr Leo Wright. She described how she reached a church settlement for Fr Wright’s criminal behaviour. But she made no mention of rapes by Frs Hayes or Johnson. She said that she spoke to a number of bishops in New South Wales and Queensland in 1996 and 1997 telling them about what she had suffered. She was rightly pleased to have the Church accept liability for the wrongs committed by Fr Wright. Neither Bishop Heenan nor Bishop McCarthy (the relevant Rockhampton bishops) ever heard any complaint from any bishop in New South Wales or Queensland about the behaviour of Frs Hayes and Johnson. Why didn’t Ms Goreng tell the bishops about these rapes back then? And why when promoting her book on radio on 28 June 2018 did she state that the abuse she suffered ‘happened to me when I was 13 to 18’ years old? Ms Goreng did make a complaint to the Queensland Police in December 2015. The complaint was brought to Fr Johnson’s attention in August 2016. He was interviewed by police on 5 July 2017 and the investigating officer then informed Fr Johnson’s lawyer that the investigation was finished, no charges would be laid, and the police file would be closed. Fr Johnson died in January 2018. I write because Frs Hayes and Johnson are heroes of mine. Fr Johnson was a relative. Both men are dead. When they were alive, Ms Goreng Goreng published no such claims against them. Even dead Catholic priests deserve their reputation. No doubt, Fr Wright’s criminal actions caused great harm to Ms Goreng Goreng. As a priest and as a fellow citizen, I feel both shame and hurt at what Ms Goreng Goreng has suffered at the hands of Fr Wright. But I don’t think her belated inconsistent rape claims against the deceased Fr Hayes and Fr Johnson should go uncontested.
Frank Brennan | 01 September 2018


Re: Christine McKee's comment about me yelling and swearing at her and not having heard from me again. She actually did hear from me again, I have the two emails to prove it. I surmise she's not too happy at being told by me that she's been conned by Pam. Did I yell at her, the short answer is no. Did I swear at her, again no but I certainly swore in the context of the lies being told by Pam. My older sister sent me a copy of Saturdays article (to say she's upset by Pam's lies is putting it mildly) which I've read, needless to say there are several allegations that just don't stack up. Comment 4 from Frank Brennan alludes to the statement made by Pam "sleeping in the laundry on the camp bed with the dogs" The laundry in question wasn't big enough to have a camp stretcher (it would have been an absolute luxury to have a spare bed in the house) and at the time we didn't have a dog let alone dogs. We had a dog which died in 1961 and my father and I buried it in the back yard, perhaps Pam remembers the Aboriginal name of the dog but I very much doubt it. Several years later my father got another dog perhaps Pam can name this dog? Pam alludes to being taken to the presbytery in Rockhampton by our father after the regional swimming championships, having come from Longreach to compete, bit of a problem there as I was with them at the regionals and my father certainly didn't go near any presbytery, In fact my father had no interest in religion and the only time he set foot in a church was for funerals and weddings. Pam remembers verbatim the conversation with Fr Hayes after 50 odd years, that's impressive but highly unlikely. That should have set off alarm bells? In 1964 (aged 6) Pam said she was raped. I would think that it would be rather difficult to cover up the rape of a six year old by a full grown male, didn't the journo think that's rather odd? Pam is referred to by blackfellas as "mad Pam" it's not said in a maliciously or nasty way it is just that "mad Pam" Sensational articles like this sell papers, journos love them and I think want to believe people like Pam who is articulate, intelligent and very believable to people who don't know her. To people who do really know her she is deceitful, manipulative, cunning and devious, she's conned a lot of whitefellas in her time. Our family has tolerated Pam's lies over the years but now she has put our deceased father in the public domain as someone who allowed priests to molest her, that is totally out of order and it's time to take and stand and expose her for the fraud she is. I'll have to read Pam's book (I doubt she'll be sending me a free signed copy) just to see what she says and then I'll probably write an opinion piece on it and see if I can get it published but I doubt if the Murdoch press will because they don't like being told they're wrong. Several years ago the Australian printed an article by Michael Connor who wrote a book "The Invention of Terra Nullius" who said the high court got it wrong in the Mabo decision, it generated supporting articles from others, I contacted the Australian and said that I would like to submit an article on why Connor got it wrong but they never published it, It was published by The Newcastle Law Review (and other obscure publications). Google Michael Connor/Kevin Williams The Invention of Terra Nullius if you're interested.
Kevin Williams | 02 September 2018


Ms McKee writes that on Friday afternoon after Kevin Williams challenged the veracity of his sister Ms Goreng Goreng’s claims, ‘after speaking to the publisher, the author and The Australian we have decided to publish tomorrow’. McKee further states, ‘My further enquiries reassured me she is telling the truth’. Not only did the Morning Bulletin proceed with their third article. Some of the material was then re-run on other Murdoch platforms including The Courier Mail in Brisbane and the Gladstone Observer where Ms McKee had been the editor before her move to Rockhampton as Chief Reporter.

By Friday afternoon, Ms McKee had been provided with a number of materials containing very contradictory statements by Ms Goreng Goreng. She had Ms Goreng’s 2012 published paper which spoke of sexual abuse by a priest in Longreach at the age of 5 and of sexual abuse by priests in Rockhampton between the ages of 15 and 18. She had the recording of the November 2012 ABC interview and the ABC webpage which spoke of her being ‘repeatedly sexually abused by a Catholic priest over several years while attending boarding school at the Range Convent in Rockhampton’ but with no mention of rapes by priests when she was of pre-secondary school age (a far more horrific saga). She had the recording of the interview on 28 June 2018 in which Ms Goreng Goreng states unequivocally that the abuse she suffered ‘happened to me when I was 13 to 18’ years old. Then she had the statement published already in the Morning Bulletin that priests had raped her in Rockhampton when she was aged 6 and 11.

Ms McKee wrote in her third instalment that Ms Goreng Goreng told her that she was ready to reveal all by 2004 when she entered her manuscript for an award, having finished the writing in 1998. It is surprising that the details of the Rockhampton rapes at the ages of 6 and 11 were not included in the 2012 publications, and even more surprising that they were completely overlooked in the interview of 28 June 2018.

I have two questions for Ms McKee: given that your enquiries last Friday afternoon reassured you that Ms Goreng Goreng was telling the truth, which of the four different accounts do you think is true? Or if all are true, could you help the reader understand how the four accounts are reconcilable?

Given the concerns raised by Kevin Williams, I would have thought that any investigative journalist worth their salt would have said, ‘Halt the presses, while we make further inquiries and this will take a bit longer than a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon.’ Or at least, you would have thought the publisher would have urged caution. But no, she and ‘The Australian’ decided to let it rip and syndicate to Brisbane and Gladstone.


Frank Brennan SJ | 03 September 2018


Let me state again, ‘As a priest and as a fellow citizen, I feel both shame and hurt at what Ms Goreng Goreng has suffered at the hands of Fr Wright.’ My public ‘beef’ is with the shoddy and unprofessional journalism of the Murdoch press (augmented by some deliberately obfuscatory and misleading comments of the Queensland Police Service) which has resulted in the needless trashing of the reputations of the deceased and defenceless Frs Hayes and Johnson and great hurt to innocent persons such as members of my own family and members of the family of Ms Goreng Goreng. It will have done nothing to assist Ms Goreng Goreng with her healing and well-being.

Last Thursday morning at 8.58am, I provided Ms McKee, the Chief Reporter at the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, with material sufficient to raise big red alarms, but she was not to be deterred in her quest. I then started discussions with her over a two-day period. By Friday afternoon, McKee had been warned very strongly by Kevin Williams, a brother of Ms Goreng Goreng. But she was not for turning.

I stated in my Thursday morning email to her: ‘Before publishing any further comments by Ms Goreng, I suggest you need to listen to her interview about her book given to 6PR on 28 June 2018. Listen at https://www.6pr.com.au/podcast/tjana-goreng-goreng-a-long-way-from-no-go/. In that interview she states unequivocally that the abuse she suffered ‘happened to me when I was 13 to 18’ years old (Audio at 12:13-12.21). There is absolutely no suggestion whatever that she was raped when she was 6 years old and when she was 11 years old as alleged in your sensational story this morning.’

In that interview, Ms Goreng agrees that apart from the abuse she suffered at her secondary boarding school, she lived a fairly normal life and that it was in 1995, 20-25 years after she suffered abuse, that she realised that she could report any perpetrator to the police. Speaking of the abuse she said, ‘It happened to me when I was sort of 13 to 18 and it doesn’t define my life. It was a period of my life when yeah I was in an important developmental stage’. There is not the slightest suggestion of horrific rapes by priests when she is aged 6 and 11. If she had been raped by priests when aged 6 and 11, she would surely have mentioned it in this interview, just as she did and at such length in her discussions with Ms McKee last week in preparation for the three day Murdoch publishing splurge. Any reasonable listener of this interview would think that all the abuse she suffered occurred during her secondary schooling years. If in doubt, have a listen to the interview.

In the interview, Ms Goreng describes how her book came to be written: ‘It started off that way because Wild Dingo Press had read a novel which was based on fact based on my story that I had written and put in the David Unaipon Award in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards for Unpublished Aboriginal writers. And they read it and said, you know, if some of this is fact then we’d be interested in publishing it as an autobiography. And I said that I can’t really write all of that on my own because it’s really an horrific story. So of course it started off as “Let’s tell the story about this abuse”. But then in fact we got a whole lot of other interesting stories in there because I have lived an interesting life.’ (Audio at 4:54-)

Could anything have deterred Ms McKee and her Murdoch colleagues (all the way up the fleet to the flagship ‘The Australian’) from proceeding last Friday afternoon with unfounded allegations against deceased Catholic priests? I doubt it. Let’s hope things change for the better. Otherwise the damage to the body politic and to the dignity of many innocent persons will be profound.


Frank Brennan | 03 September 2018


Thank you for the clarity and thoroughness of your account and efforts, Frank, in these Orwellian and Kafkaesque days.
John | 03 September 2018


Surprised, or maybe just dismayed, to see the Courier Mail, Gladstone Observer, and Rockhampton Morning Bulletin still displaying their scurrilous articles at the close of business on Monday 3 September.
Frank Brennan SJ | 03 September 2018


No Frank, I'm not surprised after all we are dealing with the nadir of Australian journalism, the Murdoch Press. There are a couple of things that I wish to further comment on regarding this matter. Firstly the blackfellas I've spoken to over the last few days treat this as Pam just grandstanding coming out with a new load of bullshit, so apart from causing angst in our family (immediate and extended) nothing has changed, Pam will still be mad Pam and she will undoubtedly continue with her lies. In one conversation I had with one of my relatives the question was posed, what will Pam say about my mother when she dies (mum is in a nursing home in Rockhampton aged 90 with dementia, I'll be flying up to visit her again this weekend). We canvassed different scenarios, she'll say mum sold her to white slavers that's how she managed too see the world, mum snuck across the border and stole a semi trailer of grog drove it back to Longreach and hid it in the palatial mansion we lived in overlooking the ocean in Longreach. She then sold it at discount to the local Catholic priest who in turn gave it to Pam, she did this whilst tending acres and acres of marijuana she grew for Pam which we weren't allowed to have because it was exclusively Pams, bloody hell if we got our hands on even a little bit of that yandi (blackfella for marijuana) we could have become eastern suburbs drug dealers by now driving Ferrari's and living lavish lifestyles, and so it went on becoming sillier and darker. It's just blackfella humour as a way of dealing with Pam's lies. On a more serious note regarding the journalist who wrote the stories in the Rockhampton Bulletin, Christine McGee who you (Frank Brennan) called unprofessional, I'll take it further and say if they're handing out award for shonky journalism she's probably got it in the bag. It's rather strange that she never contacted any of our family for comment, because if she did I doubt this story would have seen the light of day. McKee can sue me for what I've said after all I'm alive which is more than can be said about the three men whose reputations have been traduced by McKee in her articles, my father and two priests Mick Hayes and Grove Johnston. My father will always be a man of probity, well respected and highly regarded and it's quite easy to rebut the lies Pam has said about him and blackfellas are familiar with Pam's garbage. However, in the broader community it's a different story with the two priests. It's open season on Catholic clergy at the moment with the stuff coming out of the Royal Commission and I have no qualms about the abusers, paedophiles, predators and scum like the one who abused Pam, Leo Wright to be dealt with by the full force of the law as far as I'm concerned they deserve to rot in hell (wherever or whatever hell is). However dead people can't sue so the most vile, heinous things can be said about them and there will be no comeback. The Grove Johnston allegation can be put to bed, he has never been to Longreach where the alleged rape took place and what I have found since this story broke several days ago is that Pam has alleged in an article written by her and published in an academic journal that she had been subjected to "ritualistic" sexual abuse from the age of five by numerous white male adults in Longreach. I can quite easily take her allegations apart and put them in the ever growing bucket of her lies where they belong. I knew neither Grove Johnston or Mick Hayes although I'd heard of Hayes because of the work he did with blackfellas and if they were alive today then they would deserve their day in court and be dealt with accordingly. As a lawyer I seriously doubt they would be convicted on Pam's evidence. I have no interest in religion, the catholic church or the clergy but I do have an interest in the law and how it can be utilized to help the weak, the needy the poor and oppressed and I commend the work of the Royal Commission and if because of it more members of the clergy have been found to have been the perpetrators of heinous crime then have them prosecuted with the full force of the law. I am reminded of the Martin Luther King Jr saying, " I look to the day when a person is judged by the content of their character not the colour of their skin" (or words to that effect). I could be changed to say I look to the day when a person is judged on the content of their character not their clerical collar.
Kevin Williams | 04 September 2018


Those who like to get their news from the ABC might like to compare two contrasting ABC interviews with Ms Goreng Goreng, one from 2012 and the other from this morning. It’s only fair to ask why Ms Goreng Goreng did not raise the allegations against Frs Hayes and Johnson in her 2012 interview. Afterall, they are far more serious and graphic than anything alleged against Fr Wright. In that interview, she says, ‘My case happened nearly 17 years ago’. She speaks of engagement with various bishops in Sydney and in Brisbane discussing sexual abuse by ONE priest only, Leo Wright. And that is the only priest she discussed with those bishops. Listen at http://de9znd9hicg5y.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/06163551/indigenousAppropriateCommission-web.mp3 This morning’s interview is available at http://radio.abc.net.au/search?service_guid=RN-bst-20180904-10198628 Incidentally, despite what Fran Kelly claimed this morning, Fr Johnson was not dead by the time Ms Goreng Goreng spoke to the royal commission. He was very much alive. The royal commission could have spoken to him if they wanted, but they never did.
Frank Brennan SJ | 04 September 2018


The journalist Christine McKee published this statement in the Morning Bulletin last Thursday about Ms Goreng Goreng: ‘She was six years old the first time she says she was raped in 1964. Her father had left her at the ROCKHAMPTON Presbytery with Father Hayes, who she knew well. But after giving her lemonade, she said he took her upstairs and left her with another priest, Grove Johnson, who hypnotised and raped her.’ Over the next two days, I had many conversations with Ms McKee. She wrote to me saying, ‘I will continue writing about this for tomorrow and encourage you to read Ms Goreng Goreng’s book. It can be ordered from Dymock’s online.’ So better still, I went to Dymocks today and bought a copy. I hope Ms McKee has actually read the book. At page 24-5, Ms Goreng describes being raped by Fr Johnson in the presbytery in LONGREACH where she lived and where Grove Johnson had never been in his life. Longreach is 700 km inland from Rockhampton. Grove was often in Rockhampton, never in Longreach. I don’t doubt that Ms Goreng Goreng told Ms McKee that she was raped in Rockhampton at the age of 6 by Fr Johnson. By the time she spoke with Ms McKee last week, Ms Goreng may well have learnt from the police that when she initially complained of rape by Fr Johnson in Longreach in December 2015, police inquiries over the next 18 months could not turn up a skerrick of evidence of Grove ever being in Longreach. He’d never been posted there as parish priest or even temporarily as relieving priest. He had never been there to perform any priestly tasks. He’d never even visited there. His travel tastes were more like Sydney and Paris than Longreach. Ms Goreng falsely states in her book, ‘Fr Grove Johnson visited Longreach a handful of times before I was nine.’ No, Ms Goreng, not once! It’s this sort of inconsistency and manufactured narrative in Ms Goreng’s renditions of her horrific past which should be putting any fair-minded, competent journalist on notice. So another question for Ms McKee: when you published your story on Thursday and when Ms Goreng’s brother put you on notice of Ms Goreng’s propensities on Friday, and when you decided to proceed with further publication on Saturday, and when you wrote, ‘My further enquiries reassured me she is telling the truth’: what did you think was the truth? That she was raped in Longreach at the age of 6 by Grove Johnson, or was it Rockhampton? Or doesn’t it matter? Didn’t you think it important to ask for some further clarification from the confused Ms Goreng Goreng? The answer is that she was never raped by Grove Johnson at any age, whether you want to claim Longreach or Rockhampton.
Frank Brennan SJ | 04 September 2018


On Friday 31 August I emailed Christine McKee pointing out glaring inconsistencies in her "sensational" article, she never responded to my concerns. I also emailed her on Monday 3 September raising other issues again she did not respond A good place to start for the journalist Christine McKee regarding Pams allegations would have been with immediate family members, did this happen. No. As I said before alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear just on the information provided by Pam, there are too many inconsistencies in her stories and now she is on the book selling tour the more she opens her mouth the more inconsistent her claims will become. I hope Christine McKee keeps up to date with Pam's radio interviews and anything written about her allegations in the next few weeks while this is still topical and analyse and reflect on the inconsistencies and outright lies in what she says and spend as much time writing a truthful article about Pam as she has the last several days writing the Pam Williams fiction story. I said to a blackfella today, there's about as much chance of that happening as me waking up a whitefella in the morning. I'll keep you posted when I look in the mirror tomorrow.
Kevin Williams | 04 September 2018


Tjanara Goreng-Goreng in her identity as a member of her family associated together with me for some time in late 1996 early 1997 in my mother's Kenmore home, Brisbane. This association by me with Tjanara was in my identity as a member of families of valid natural marriages who by associating together are putting into action a procreation service provision (PSP) project within the family (Job's Trust). Our task is to keep the inseparability of the activities of our helpers in this PSP in their different groups within the Church and in society. To do this Job's Trust members require from all respect for the rights of our helpers to the inseparability of their civil liberties and religious liberty being kept by us. This 'keeping' by Job's Trust of this inseparability of union (religious liberty) and procreation (civil liberty) is by our exercise of an absolute power of authorisation. Fr Brennan in his role as a church helper of the family and a citizen helper of the family has these rights as also did the deceased Fr Michael Hayes and Fr Grove Johnson for which Job's Trust can and must require from all respect for their inseparability. Job's Trust needs and asks for of its helpers within the Church and in society, such as Fr Brennan in this case acting in both roles, to confirm the identity of the family. Only then can families and their members of Job's Trust require the respect from all, including the police and media in their helping activities in society, for the inseparability of their civil liberties and religious liberty being kept by Job's Trust. Is it this requiring respect by Job's Trust that Fr Brennan seeks in this case of the credibility of Tjanara Goreng-Goreng's allegations of child sexual abuse against Fr Hayes and Fr Johnson? We would appreciate the gift of Fr Brennan's help in his activities both within the Church and in society in confirming the identity of Job's Trust families and their members in our associating with Tjanara Goreng-Goreng for which purpose we ask Fr Brennan to contact us at Job's Trust, 8/178 Kent Street, New Farm, Q. 4005; Ph: 0467 299 853; email oliver_clark5@telstra.com. Oliver Clark
Oliver Clark | 04 September 2018


If the surgeons serving the Rockhampton populace did their work with the same standards of investigation, ethics and ignorance of the facts as displayed by the journalism offered in the district, the cemetery would be a darned sight bigger than it is and the surgeons would be barred from practice and probably run out of town. Disgraceful!
john frawley | 05 September 2018


Yesterday on the ABC, Ms Tjanara Goreng Goreng (a victim of child sexual abuse by a priest Leo Wright) repeated allegations of child sexual abuse by two deceased priests Michael Hayes and Grove Johnson who was a relative of mine. These allegations of abuse in the 1960s are now set out in her memoir ‘A Long Way from No Go’ published last Saturday. Hayes died before Goreng Goreng ever went to the police in 2015. Johnson had to endure a protracted police investigation when in his 90s. That investigation was concluded when the police realised that there was absolutely no evidence that Johnson had ever been to Longreach where all but one of the offences had been alleged to occur. In fact, Johnson never visited Longreach in his life. To make matters even more confusing, Ms Goreng Goreng appears to have changed her story last week when she told the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin that the offences occurred in Rockhampton where Johnson often was. The Bully repeated this claim twice in three days (30/8 and 1/9). In the wake of the royal commission, we all need to be very careful when making allegations even against the dead. I think an innocent person like Johnson, having to suffer the torturous uncertainty he did between August 2016 when first informed of the complaint and July 2017 when the investigation was closed, becomes like a secondary victim of the abuse. I don’t doubt that Ms Goreng Goreng was sexually abused by Leo Wright, and as a priest and as a fellow citizen, I feel both shame and hurt at what Ms Goreng Goreng suffered at the hands of Wright. But having read Ms Goreng Goreng’s inconsistent statements and interviews since 2012, I remain convinced she was never abused by Grove Johnson whether in Longreach or Rockhampton. I think his reputation should be defended even in death. I think it inconceivable that Ms Goreng Goreng’s father wantonly surrendered her up to predatory priests as she alleges. See especially the comments by Ms Goreng Goreng’s brother Kevin Williams on this site. The ABC gave me the opportunity to respond to Ms Goreng’s claims. My remarks commence at 4:18. Listen at https://soundcloud.com/frank-brennan-6/abc-capricornia
Frank Brennan SJ | 06 September 2018


Fr Brennan has commented further without contacting me in our need for his help to confirm our identity as families and members of families closely associated with Tjanara Goreng-Goreng in 1996 - 1997 both as a family member in by associating together with us putting into action a procreation service provision project within the family and as a citizen in requiring respect for her right to our keeping the inseparability of her civil and religious liberty rights after Tjanara as a citizen helped us by confirming our identity as families and family members. Please help us, Fr Brennan, in a shared but differentiated responsibility with Tjanara to ensure confirmation of our identity as family members and families. Oliver Clark, Job's Trust Ph: 0467 299 853; email: oliver_clark5@telstra. com; address 8/178 Kent St., New Farm, Brisbane, Q. 4005 .
Oliver Clark | 06 September 2018


This will be my last comment on this piece. After my ABC interview yesterday highlighting the shifting of allegations from Longreach to Rockhampton, someone posted on Facebook: ‘This is the issue. It is not necessarily deliberately lying. But can get confused.’ This is my response: Confusion is one thing BUT….. In 2012, Ms Goreng Goreng claimed that she had been assaulted in Longreach as a 5 year old by an unnamed priest, and that’s where she lived as a child. In 2015, she claimed that various assaults took place in Longreach prior to her going to secondary school in Rockhampton, and she claimed that one assault took place in Rockhampton. Then last week, Ms Goreng Goreng communicated a number of times with the Rockampton Morning Bulletin journalist Ms McKee. On Thursday ‘they’ published a story that Ms Goreng Goreng had been raped not in Longreach, but in Rockhampton, at the age of 6 (and that she had later been raped in Rockhampton aged 11). On Thursday, I discussed this matter at some length with Ms McKee, stating that Ms Goreng Goreng’s previous statements were consistent only with a rape claim in Longreach at the age of 5 or 6. This was very relevant because the police investigation into Grove Johnson in 2016-2017 had centred on whether he had ever been posted to Longreach permanently or temporarily and on whether there was any evidence of his ever having been to Longreach. He’d never been to Longreach, and as far as I know Ms Goreng Goreng had not been to Rockhampton as a young child. On Friday, Ms McKee in her second piece published a misleading headline identifying me as a Sydney priest. I live in Canberra and I had given her my address. I wrote to her saying: ‘We agreed that you would quote only from the written response I provided for publication and from the email I sent on of 5 July 2017 from Grove Johnson’s lawyer. And that if you wanted to quote anything else I had said to you in broad ranging conversations during the day, you would get back to me. You did not. Instead you have run a story with the headline ‘Sydney priest says sex claims “inconceivable”’. ‘Let’s leave aside that I’m not from Sydney. We already know that geography doesn’t matter to you, whether it be Sydney or Canberra, Longreach or Rockhampton.’ She replied: ‘I will continue writing about this for tomorrow and encourage you to read Ms goreng Goreng’s book. It can be ordered from Dymock’s online.’ On Saturday in her third piece she once again published the claim (to a predominantly Rockhampton readership of the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin) that the rape as a child took place in Rockhampton at age 6, and therefore not in Longreach. On Ms McKee’s advice, I then bought the book earlier this week (it having been released on Saturday). In the book Ms Goreng Goreng unequivocally claims that the rape at age 6 took place in Longreach, and not in Rockhampton. This is not the innocent confusion of a child; this is the manufactured confusion of an adult – simply trying, and not very successfully with the assistance of a very negligent or zealous journalist, to put Grove Johnson in the frame because he’d never been to Longreach as I told the journalist Ms McKee on Thursday. It’s appalling stuff.
Frank Brennan | 07 September 2018


Thank you all for your comments on this article. It is now closed, and no further postings will be accepted.
THE EDITORS | 07 September 2018


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