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The Congregation of Christian Brothers are a worldwide religious community within the Catholic Church, founded by Blessed Edmund Rice in 1802 in Ireland. In 1868, the Congregation of Christian Brothers arrived in Australia to establish catholic schools. With the demand for Catholic education increasing, the spread of the Christian Brothers institutions also increased in Australia, resulting in the Australasian Province of the Christian Brothers being formally established in 1885.
In 1926, the Christian Brothers established and opened Edmund Rice College in Wollongong, NSW. Edmund Rice College is a Catholic all boys high school. Edmund Rice College moved to its West Wollongong Campus situated at 112 Mount Keira Rd, West Wollongong in 1962, and this is where it remains today.
It has been alleged by survivors that the former Edmunds Rice College principal, Brother Michael Evans, abused boys in the 1980s. The abuse incidents were reported to the police in 1989 however the police declined, at the time, to prosecute Brother Evans as the Christian Brothers provided assurances that they were providing Brother Evans counselling. Brother Evans remained as principal of Edmund Rice College for another five years until 1995 when further allegations of abuse became public. It was alleged that Brother Evans was operating a paedophile ring which also involved the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong Priest, Father Peter Comensoli.
In 1994, Father Comensoli plead guilty to two charges of indecent assault. Brother Evans was removed as principal at Edmunds College in 1994 and the police had decided to criminally charge Brother Evans. Brother Evans committed suicide before the police were able to formally charge him.
In 1995, the Wood Inquiry uncovered the operation of organised paedophile rings in New South Wales.
In 2016, another former teacher at Edmund Rice College, Brother John Vincent Roberts, was charged with 11 charges in relation to sexual abuse of a young male at Edmund Rice College in the late 1980s. In September 2016, Brother Roberts was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 6 years. It was discovered that Brother Roberts was allowed by the Christian Brothers to continue teaching at Edmunds College despite their being at least one prior complaint of abuse at another school run by the Christian Brothers in New South Wales.
A former student and local MP, Stephen Jones, described Edmunds College as feeling like a “dumping ground” for paedophiles.
We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today.
Further Abuse Law information written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.