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Jesuits announce inquiry into Higgs move

National

The Australian Jesuits have announced the appointment of the Hon Marilyn Warren AC QC, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, to review the movement of former Jesuit brother, Victor Higgs, from Adelaide to Sydney.

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Victor Higgs, who left the Society of Jesuits in 2001, was recently convicted of historical cases of abuse at a Jesuit School in New South Wales and prior to that at another Jesuit School in South Australia.

Director of Professional Standards for the Australian Jesuits, Simon Davies said: “We understand and acknowledge the concern people have about how the Jesuits may have handled complaints about Higgs in the past, and the need to understand the circumstances of Higgs’ move from Adelaide to Sydney at the end of 1970.

“We have therefore, in consultation with those who have experienced abuse, appointed an independent expert to review the Higgs files and witnesses.

“We have shared all our documents and witnesses regarding Higgs with the police in both South Australia and New South Wales to assist with their investigations and will continue to do so if new information comes to hand.

“We are committed to safeguarding, openness and transparency.”

The Jesuits have committed to publishing Chief Justice Warren’s findings.

The Society also announced it had joined the National Redress Scheme and released its second Safeguarding Children Annual Report. The document includes the Society’s responses to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, as well as complaints of abuse received in the 12 months to 30 June 2018.

The Society continues to work towards accreditation with the Australian Childhood Foundation across all its operations including schools and ministries.

The Provincial of the Australian Jesuits, Father Brian McCoy SJ said it was with a “heavy heart and deep sorrow that we face the abuse that has occurred within our ministries in the past”.

“We bear witness to those who have experienced abuse in our institutions and are acutely aware of the need for redress – not only financial compensation, but also a personal apology and pastoral and psychological care as appropriate,” he said.

“We hope that these steps might bring healing not only to those who may themselves have been abused, but also those others whose trust was betrayed.

“We will continue to listen, consult, be open to criticism from people, including lay people, who are strong enough to give us honest, robust, reasonable, evidence-based feedback. We will also continue to act on that feedback and be relentless in our efforts to ensure that our schools and ministries are safe places, particularly for children and young people.”

A video of Fr McCoy announcing the initiatives can be viewed here.

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