Anthony Forster: Tireless Hero of Child Abuse – RIP

It is with a heavy heart that I write today as I say goodbye to a true hero, Anthony Foster. Please share his story. 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. Mr Foster, 64, died after suffering a stroke falling a fall on Friday evening. The family of Mr Foster have accepted the Victorian government’s offer of a state funeral, which Premier Daniel Andrews said will to honour a man who “quietly and profoundly changed Australian history.”

“Anthony campaigned tirelessly for justice from the Catholic Church,” Mr Andrews said in an official statement today.

“He fought evil acts that were shamefully denied and covered up.”

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.

At the testimony given to the Royal Commission Victims of clerical abuse he told the Royal Commission that the Catholic Church’s response was primarily concerned with avoiding civil litigation and limiting compensation payouts.

The church was urged to reform its controversial Melbourne Response and review all of the 326 cases it has settled since the system was introduced in 1996 by former archbishop of Melbourne George Pell.

The commission was told on Monday that the church paid $17.2 million in ex gratia payments for child sexual abuse claims over the past 18 years, which included medical and counselling expenses. Victims received an average payout of $36,100.

The cost of administering the Melbourne Response was more than $17 million, which included $7.7 million to Independent Commissioner Peter O’Callaghan, QC, and his staff.

Serial paedophile priest Kevin O’Donnell was responsible for the largest number of payouts, with 50 victims receiving compensation for abuse spanning from 1944 to 1992.

Chrissie Foster told a packed room in Melbourne’s County Court that O’Donnell was directly responsible for the suicide of her eldest daughter Emma and the permanent brain damage sustained by her daughter Katie in a car accident.

O’Donnell preyed upon both girls when they attended Oakleigh’s Sacred Heart primary school in the late 1980s, despite the church receiving repeated complaints about the priest from 1958.

Mrs Foster and her husband Anthony Foster fought back tears as they recounted their decade-long battle with the church and its lawyers.

They pleaded for a more compassionate system that recognised the full extent of damage caused by predatory priests.

“Our view is that the Melbourne Response should be re-evaluated to ensure it complies with the legal and moral standards of our society to ensure just compensation and care for all victims.

“To be clear, we think it is appropriate to revisit every previous settlement under the Melbourne Response to make sure proper financial compensation was paid,” Mrs Foster told the commission.

In August, 1998, the Fosters received a letter from the church’s lawyers Corrs Chambers Westgarth informing them the church had agreed to pay $50,000 for the abuse to their eldest daughter.

The letter said it was an alternative to litigation, which would be strenuously defended.

The legal letter was accompanied by a written apology from former archbishop Pell.

“I felt there was an apology and then a threat. It was more of the same from the Catholic Church,” Mrs Foster said.

In 2002, the Fosters launched civil proceedings against the church, which included former archbishop of Melbourne Sir Frank Little and his successor Denis Hart as defendants.

The church settled the case in 2006 and agreed to pay $750,000, but refused to accept any liability.

Mrs Foster said the money could never compensate her family for the misery caused by O’Donnell, but acknowledged it was far greater than they would have been awarded under the Melbourne Response.

“Based on our experience, we consider the victims without adequate support or legal representation would feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the whole process,” Ms Foster told the commission.

The couple received an warm ovation from supporters and other victims of clerical abuse, when they finished their statement before the commission.

THE chair of the child sex abuse royal commission says he is “deeply saddened” by the death of tireless victims advocate Anthony Foster, who has died aged 64 after suffering a major stroke.

Mr Foster, who became a relentless advocate after his daughters were raped by a priest, is understood to have died on Friday evening after falling and hitting his head.

Mr Foster and his wife Chrissie shared their torment to the media and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Justice Peter McClellan extended his condolences to the Foster family and praised their dedication to achieving justice for survivors of child sexual abuse.

“They attended hundreds of days of public hearings and participated in many of our policy roundtables,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

Anthony Foster, talks to the press after abuse survivors met Cardinal George Pell in the Hotel Quirinale, Rome, after Pell gave evidence to the The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture by David Mirzoeff /i-Images

Anthony Foster, talks to the press after abuse survivors met Cardinal George Pell in the Hotel Quirinale, Rome, after Pell gave evidence to the The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture by David Mirzoeff /i-ImagesSource:Supplied

“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.”

Mr Foster’s daughters, Emma and Katie, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of pedophile priest Kevin O’Donnell at their Melbourne school between 1988 and 1993.

Emma took an overdose of her medication and died in 2008, while Katie was hit by a car after a drinking binge and is now brain damaged and in a wheelchair.

Tributes poured in for Mr Foster on Saturday, with many describing the father as a voice for survivors who struggled to discuss their personal experiences.

“Anthony was the person that stood up and he spoke in quiet, but powerful words, and in many ways you know, he roared like a lion on this issue,” friend Paul Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy co-authored a book, Hell on the Way to Heaven, with Mrs Foster in 2010.

Anthony and Chrissie Foster. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

Anthony and Chrissie Foster. Picture: Ella PellegriniSource:News Corp Australia

“It is just so sad for everyone that Anthony Foster has died,” he said.

Fellow victims advocate Manny Waks said he was devastated to hear of the death of his friend and colleague.

“Anthony, together with his dear wife Chrissie, has been one of my inspirations,” he wrote on Facebook.

“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 also voiced his anger with the Catholic Church for the “ongoing pain and suffering they caused the Fosters”.

“At the very least, they should belatedly publicly acknowledge the incredible work by such an amazing family,” he said.

“They should belatedly publicly apologise to Anthony and Chrissie Foster.

“Many of us are mourning with you. We will continue to support you in whatever way we can.”

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