“Advocate for abuse survivors to receive state funeral” & related articles

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Catholic News Service

Published: 29 May 2017

Anthony Foster holds a photo of his daughters in Rome last year (CNS/Paul Haring)

Anthony Foster holds a photo of his daughters in Rome last year (CNS/Paul Haring)

The family of Anthony Foster, the long-time advocate for child sex abuse victims, has accepted an offer from the Victorian government for a state funeral, ABC News reports.

Mr Foster, who died in a Melbourne hospital on Friday, aged 64, after a fall last week, was yesterday hailed as “brave and gracious” and a “hero” for his campaigning for victims.

He dedicated his life to seeking justice for child sex abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church after two of his daughters were repeatedly raped by a priest in the 1980s.

“History will record that a man named Anthony Foster quietly and profoundly changed Australian history,” Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement. “This afternoon, I offered his family a state funeral in his honour. His wife, Chrissie, has accepted.”

In a two decade-long quest to hold the Church accountable for crimes against children, the Fosters told the harrowing story of their family’s treatment at the hands of the Church to the media and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Truth Justice and Healing Council chairman Neville Owen and council members said they were “saddened by the death of Anthony Foster, a strong, committed and tireless advocate for the survivors of child sexual abuse in particular for those abused within the Catholic Church.”

CEO of the TJHC, Francis Sullivan, extended his condolences and the condolences of the council and its staff to Chrissie Foster and her family.

“We came to know Anthony and Chrissie over the course of many public case studies into abuse within the Church and other royal commission activities,” Mr Sullivan said.

“Throughout the commission process and in private encounters with Anthony and Chrissie they have always put the interests of their daughters and the many survivors they have worked with first. Anthony’s strong and clear advocacy and support will be missed by many.”

The Archdiocese of Melbourne also acknowledged Mr Foster’s death in statement on the Melbourne Catholic website.

“We have been greatly saddened and shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of Anthony Foster,” the statement said.

“He was a tireless and fearless advocate for the cause and rights of survivors of abuse within the Church and the introduction of systems to prevent its repetition. We would expect nothing less from a father who loves his children.”

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Anthony Foster’s death is a national loss

ANTHONY Foster was integrity personified.

His death on Saturday, aged 64, after he collapsed on Wednesday, has shattered everyone who knew him.

His death has added to the merciless toll that’s a consequence of the Catholic Church’s history of child sexual abuse.

Anthony and wife Chrissie’s two eldest daughters, Emma and Katie, were sexually assaulted by Catholic priest Kevin O’Donnell when they were barely five and six years old, and O’Donnell was in his 70s. Emma died of a medication overdose in 2007, aged 25. Katie was struck by a car in 1999, aged 16, after periods of binge drinking. She survived, but with profound disabilities.

Since the 1990s Anthony and Chrissie Foster have fought the church on behalf of their daughters, but increasingly on behalf of all survivors.

On my desk I have the book Chrissie wrote in 2010, Hell on the Way to Heaven, about that fight, including their attempt to meet Pope Benedict in Sydney during World Youth Day events in 2008, and the church’s shocking response – that some people were “dwelling crankily on old wounds”.

The book carries an inscription and the date, October 27, 2012. It was a Saturday and the first time we met.

There wouldn’t be a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse without Anthony and Chrissie Foster. On that October, 2012 day we were at a public meeting in Sydney, a month after the first public meeting in Newcastle as part of the Newcastle Herald’s Shine the Light campaign for a royal commission.

Anthony and Chrissie had flown up from Melbourne to support the campaign and the three of us spoke. The audience included the Hunter’s Lou Pirona, whose son John’s suicide only weeks earlier, after he was sexually abused as a child by notorious Catholic priest John Denham, was the catalyst for the campaign.

I remember a man in the audience asked me a question and criticised the campaign’s strategy. For some reason that day I was absurdly optimistic. I told the man that the Victorian Government had already established a parliamentary inquiry that was being overwhelmed by submissions from child sexual abuse victims around the country. Anthony and Chrissie played a vital part in the establishment of that inquiry.

I remember saying it was the first time an Australian government had cracked and acknowledged the response to the child sexual abuse crisis could no longer remain in the hands of the Catholic Church.

I also remember telling him that if just one other state government cracked there would be a national royal commission.

Anthony Foster then spoke and agreed with me. He was also absurdly optimistic that day. We joked about it afterwards. By that stage, though, the weight of evidence supporting a national royal commission was overwhelming. It was just a matter of convincing governments of the profound need. The rest is history.

Anthony Foster’s integrity left him devastated by the Catholic Church, but it also made him one of its most devastating and formidable foes.

He was thrust into the public sphere by appalling circumstance. His passing is a loss to the nation, but more specifically to Chrissie, their youngest daughter Aimee, their two grandchildren and Katie.

Anthony Foster deserves a state funeral. More than that, his death requires us to honour his memory by demanding governments act on the royal commission’s recommendations.

The story The man who was integrity personified first appeared on Newcastle Herald.

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Anthony Foster, long-time advocate for child sex abuse victims, dies aged 64

ABC News   Australia

Updated

Anthony Foster stands with his wife Christine in Melbourne. Photo: Anthony Foster and his wife Chrissie spent two decades campaigning to educate parents on the risks of child abuse. (AAP: Julian Smith)

Anthony Foster, who dedicated his life to seeking justice for victims of child sex abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church after two of his daughters were repeatedly raped by a priest, has died in a Melbourne hospital, aged 64.

In a two decade-long quest to hold the Catholic Church accountable for crimes against children, Mr Foster and his wife Chrissie told the harrowing story of their family’s treatment at the hands of the church to the media and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The couple’s daughters Emma and Katie were raped by Melbourne paedophile priest Father Kevin O’Donnell when they were in primary school in the 1980s.

Emma suffered from eating disorders, drug addiction and self harm. In 2008 she overdosed on medication and died at the age of 26.

Katie became a binge drinker as she reached adulthood and was hit by a drunk driver in 1999. She was left physically and mentally disabled, requiring 24-hour care.

Emma Aimee Chrissie Katie and Anthony Foster Photo: Left to right: Emma Foster (6); Aimee Foster (2); mother Chrissie Foster; Katie Foster (4) and father Anthony Foster. Emma and Katie were abused by a Catholic priest from an early age. Emma later committed suicide while Katie took to drinking heavily and was hit by a car. (Family supplied: Hell on the Way to Heaven)

Mr Foster hit his head in a fall last week and did not regain consciousness.

On Friday night, his family switched off his life support.

Mr and Mrs Foster, who also have another daughter, became Adults Surviving Child Abuse ambassadors as a result of their ordeal.

In 1996, the family was among the first to go through the Church’s Melbourne Response, designed by the then-Archbishop George Pell.

The Fosters were offered $50,000 along with a warning that if they took it to court, the church would strenuously defend itself.

They decided to fight it anyway and after nearly 10 years, they settled for $750,000.

Foster fought ‘tirelessly for justice’

Child abuse royal commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan said Mr and Mrs Foster dedicated their lives to find justice for child sexual abuse survivors.

“Their tireless advocacy helped bring about this royal commission,” he said in a statement.

“They attended hundreds of days of public hearings and participated in many of our policy roundtables.

“With a dignity and grace, Anthony and Chrissie generously supported countless survivors and their families whilst also managing their own grief.

“Commissioners and staff at the royal commission are deeply shocked and saddened by this news.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Mr Foster fought “tirelessly for justice”.

“That he was able to take the incredible hurt, pain, and anger … and become an advocate for all child sexual abuse victims is a mark of just how remarkable Anthony was,” he said in a statement.

“By speaking out against child sexual abuse, he helped other victims find their voice and gave them strength.

“Anthony will never be forgotten and the fight for justice goes on.”

Family remember ‘nurturing, empathetic, courageous’ man

In a statement, Mr Foster’s family described him as “someone who had the ability to create moments of joy no matter what the circumstances”.

“Anthony heart was so big — he fought for others to make sure what happened to our family, could not happen to anyone else. The recognition of Anthony’s passionate efforts to protect children has made us all humbled and helps provide comfort through this journey.

“He was respectful of everyone. He spoke to each person the same way – from politicians to someone who stopped us on the street.

“Ultimately, Anthony was passionate family man; he intensely adored his wife of 36 years Chrissy … [he] just wanted to make people happy.

“We are so lucky to have had him as a husband, father and friend.”

‘Brave and gracious’

Lawyer Dr Vivian Waller, who has worked exclusively as an institutional abuse lawyer for more than 20 years, praised Mr Foster as a “very loving, very gracious” man.

“Anthony is a person of great personal integrity and he’s the light and warmth and the compassion in any room,” she said.

“Anthony Foster, for me anyway, stands for everything that the church is not.”

Dr Waller said it was a great testament that Anthony and Chrissie Foster were able to provide “such gracious and generous support” to other survivors of sex abuse.

“It is a tragedy that has happened to many families and instead of being bitter or resentful, Anthony is a man who has dedicated his life to assisting other people.

She said it was a tragedy that the Foster family’s suffering could have been avoided if the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne had responded to complaints about Father Kevin O’Donnell in 1958.

“So nearly 40 years before Anthony’s girls went to that school, the church knew that Father Kevin O’Donnell was a danger to children.

“Anthony and Chrissie Foster have been the most careful and loving parents … they walked their children to and from school and they had absolutely no way of imagining that they greatest risk to their girls was installed in the presbytery next to their primary school.”

Anthony and Chrissie Foster's daughters were repeatedly raped in primary school by their parish priest in suburban Melbourne. Photo: Anthony Foster and his wife Chrissie went to Rome in 2016 to bear witness to Cardinal George Pell’s testimony at the Royal Commission. (ABC News)

ABC presenter Paul Kennedy co-authored a book, Hell on the Way to Heaven, with Chrissie Foster in 2010.

He described Mr Foster as a “giant” and a “hero to many”.

He said without Mr Foster’s advocacy, the royal commission would not have taken place.

Last year, the Fosters helped other survivors get to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give evidence to the royal commission.

“They just wouldn’t let the injustice of how survivors were treated stand,” he said.

“They pursued it and they brought about the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, and from that the royal commission followed.

“Their personal grief was immense, still is, immense, and now even more so.”

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Father of abuse victims Anthony Foster dies

The Age

27 May 2017

Melissa Cunningham

Tributes are pouring in for Anthony Foster who became a tireless and high-profile advocate for child sexual abuse victims after his daughters were raped by a priest.Chrissie and Anthony Foster campaigned for abuse survivors after their own family was torn apart.Chrissie and Anthony Foster campaigned for abuse survivors after their own family was torn apart. Photo: Eamon Gallagher

Mr Foster, 64, died after suffering a stroke on Friday evening.

He rose to national prominence after he publicly accused Cardinal George Pell of stalling the family’s compensation claim against the Catholic Church when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

It is believed Mr Foster fell and hit his head before suffering a major stroke.  He died with his wife Chrissie by his side.

Two of the Fosters’ daughters, Emma and Katie, were repeatedly raped by disgraced Melbourne priest Kevin O’Donnell while pupils at a primary school in Melbourne’s Oakleigh parish.

After years of turmoil and a decade-long court battle, Emma died by suicide at the age of 26.

Her sister Katie drank heavily before being left severely disabled when hit by a drunk driver in 1999.The Foster family - Chrissie, Katie, Aimee, Emma and Anthony.The Foster family – Chrissie, Katie, Aimee, Emma and AnthonyPhoto: Supplied

She now requires 24-hour care.

Mr Foster’s family said they felt humbled by the overwhelming support from the general public.Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were abused, speaking to the media.Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were abused, speaking to the media.  Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

“Anthony’s heart was so big – he fought for others to make sure what happened to our family, could not happen to anyone else,” the family said in a statement on Saturday.

“The recognition of Anthony’s passionate efforts to protect children has made us all humbled and helps provide comfort through this journey.”

His family said it had given them “a great deal of peace” that, “in line with Anthony’s generosity in life and death”, he was able to become an organ donor.

Yeshiva Centre child sexual abuse whistleblower Manny Waks said he was devastated by the death of his close friend.

“Despite all they endured, they maintained determination and dignity in their ongoing campaign for justice and reform within the Catholic Church – for them and for others,” Mr Waks posted in an emotional tribute on Facebook.

In 2010, Mr Foster told Fairfax Media that his wife Chrissie was his “soul mate”.

“Everything that has happened to Chrissie and me has always been underpinned by our amazing relationship,” he said at the time.

“When we became aware of O’Donnell’s crimes against our daughters, Chrissie and I automatically became a common force trying to deal with the might of the Catholic Church. The church should be ashamed. If it had been open about the abuse, Emma might have still been here today.”

Ms Foster also spoke of her unconditional love for her husband during the same interview:

“Anthony gets upset if I say, “It’s my fault.” He says: “I love you. This happened and we are in it together.” It’s humbling. If it was the other way round, I don’t know if I’d have the same reaction. He says: “I don’t want to lose you because that would be the end of everything.”

“The Catholic Church has taken two of our daughters from us, but they can never take away our love for each other and for our children.”

Mr Foster told the inquiry Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled child sex abuse in 2012 Cardinal Pell showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy” when he met them, and challenged them “if you don’t like what we are doing, take us to court”.

The Fosters rejected a $50,000 offer under the Catholic Church’s Melbourne Response scheme and took the church to court, where the church – despite having given the Fosters a written apology and the finding of independent commissioner Peter O’Callaghan confirming the rapes – denied O’Donnell had abused the girls.

They settled before judgment for $450,000 for Emma plus compensation for Katie and costs.

Last year, the Fosters travelled with other survivors to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission.

Each night in Rome after Cardinal Pell’s evidence at the Hotel Quirinale, Mr Foster would front the world’s media holding a photo of his two smiling daughters, Emma and Katherine, dressed in their school uniforms.

“These are my girls,” he told reporters.

“A Catholic priest was raping them when this photo was taken. This was my perfect family. We created that. The Catholic Church destroyed it.”

He also confronted Cardinal Pell outside the hotel after the Cardinal’s second day of testimony via video link.

He clutched the Cardinal’s hand as he left the hotel, telling him “he was holding the hand of a broken man”.

The chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Justice Peter McClellan said the commissioners and staff were deeply saddened by Mr Foster’s death.

“They attended hundreds of days of public hearings and participated in many of our policy roundtables,” Mr McClellan said.

“With a dignity and grace, Anthony and Chrissie generously supported countless survivors and their families whilst also managing their own grief.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to Mr Foster and said his advocacy would never be forgotten.

“Anthony campaigned tirelessly for justice from the Catholic Church and [over] the evil done to his daughters and his family,” Mr Andrews said.

“That he was able to take the incredible hurt, pain, and anger caused by this and become an advocate for all child sexual abuse victims is a mark of just how remarkable Anthony was. By speaking out against child sexual abuse, he helped other victims find their voice and gave them strength. Anthony will never be forgotten and the fight for justice goes on.”

Ballarat clergy abuse survivor and victim’s advocate, Peter Blenkiron, said Mr Foster had dedicated his life to trying to make something good come out of the horror inflicted on his children.

“What the Fosters have done together has been beyond measure,” Mr Blenkiron said.

“He stood up for his kids. Anybody with an ounce of decency knows it is not OK to rape children. He stood up against those who didn’t get that.

“He tried to change the world. And he did. A good man has been taken from us far too soon.”

Chief executive of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, also paid tribute to Mr Foster.

“Throughout the commission process and in private encounters with Anthony and Chrissie they have always put the interests of their daughters and the many survivors they have worked with first. Anthony’s strong and clear advocacy and support will be missed by many.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne described Mr Foster as a devoted father and family man who helped many others, in a statement issued on Saturday.

“He was a tireless and fearless advocate for the cause and rights of survivors of abuse within the church and the introduction of systems to prevent its repetition,” the statement read.

“Mr Foster was a mentor to survivors and families affected by abuse, and supported and encouraged them through many days and hours of hearings of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and Royal Commission.”

2 Responses to “Advocate for abuse survivors to receive state funeral” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    Those who have followed Sylvia’s Site for a few years will probably recognize the name of Anthony Foster. Ditto those who tuned into the Australian Royal Commission.

    What a shock to read of his untimely death.

    May he rest in peace.

    Please keep Chrissie Foster and the rest of the Foster family in your prayers at this very difficult time.

    • Lina says:

      Sylvia, remembering all those brave souls who have in the past (ex: Anthony Foster) and all those who continue to persevere every day for justice!

      There must be a high percentage of “sociopaths” among the Catholic clergy.

      These clergy are not insane. They do understand right from wrong.

      It’s a decision they make and they choose to do evil acts against the innocent.

      Just as some folks learn to live without an arm or a leg, a sociopath learns to live without a conscience.

      Responsibility is a burden that other people take on, not these wicked clergy.

      It’s essential these offenders are brought to justice for their crimes.

      What is needed and has occurred is for many people to stand up and point them out.
      For this you have people with different skills to help victims and survivors. It’s very difficult and problematic to go it alone.

      Thankfully, sites like Sylvia’s Site, folks in medical, legal and law enforcement field are important in this process.

      I give credit to you Sylvia and all folks who support clergy abuse survivors such as your average citizens, friends, family members etc…which is vital.

      The sociopaths have no wish to change because in my opinion they are satisfied with them self.

      These clergy want what they want and their purpose is to win. They will manipulate, break laws and even your heart to achieve their goal.

      They are not to be trusted, that’s for sure.

      Wouldn’t it be nice to see take place the clergy abuse survivors’s guardian angel speak out on their behalf in court but how silly to think this way because that just doesn’t happen and furthermore, it’s so not realistic.

      I read this some time ago:
      “Sociopath as a disease causes no discomfort whatsoever for the sufferer.”

      Therefore, it’s critical that these nasty and disgusting clergy be exposed and be brought to justice as well as their immoral enablers.

      Lina

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