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Creation of a Marist Ex-students and Families lobby Group – Interest sought

By BerraBoy68 - 29 June 2008 86

Given the on-going discussion on this forum, comments I’ve received with other Marist Old Boys and broader interest in this case around Australia, I’m considering starting a Marist Canberra Ex-students and Families Association to lobby for an inquiry into Marist during the 1970’s through 1990’s. I think a lobby group of this type would increase the pressure on the school to come clean during the civil case. Such a group would also get considerable publicity, again, increasing pressure for the truth top be revealed.
I don’t really care who runs the inquiry as long as it is impartial and provides the answers ex-students, their families and the broader community is seeking. I expect issues for which we will seek answers to include:

– Were the offenses by Lyons, Kostka etc. covered up by the school and/or larger Marist Order (including ‘What did other teachers at the time know or suspect’ and ‘Why were parents and students concerns raised over these 30 years ignored’;

– Why exactly did Lyons (Paul) leave Marist;

– Where Lyons employment records destroyed by the school when he left and, if so, why;

– Was Lyons given a Reference when he left Marist and was this used at Daramalan – if so who wrote and signed it?

– Why is Lyons (Paul or Ray) not mentioned in the schools’officially history (small point but is smacks of re-writing history);

– Why were rumours being put around by the Order prior to Kostka’s arrest that he died several years ago;

– Why didn’t the order act quicker in having him surrender to Police prior to his arrest (it took him several months for him to actually surrender to ACT police);

– Why are the Order stating they have no-duty to care to students for Brothers Action;

– Is the suicide rate at Marist higher than the average for other schools in the ACT, and if so why?

Shoud Bro Jo etc.. be found to be at fault I would also expect the school to change the names of it’s Houses away from those implicated in this case.

Other issues to be raised would of course be welcome.

Given discussion in Riot-Act previously I also think it relevant for an interested group to discuss the past culture of violence at the school amongst staff towards students.

Again, I think a lobby group comprised of the ex-Marist Community raising these issues may well force positive action either by sheer weight/pressure of numbers and/or through embarrassment caused by adverse publicity to the school/order.

I’d also be interested in meeting with any Old Boy or their families to discuss the establishment of such a group.

What’s Your opinion?

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86 Responses to
Creation of a Marist Ex-students and Families lobby Group – Interest sought
crazyfish 9:48 pm 30 Jun 08

What OpenYourMind2 said is spot on for mine.

re: Vicepope’s: “the best way of ensuring it doesn’t happen in the future”, I think that remains to be seen. I can’t help but believe there are many better efforts that could be made that aren’t being made for a large number of complex reasons. Why did it take so long for Chute to get the help he reportedly asked for over such a long period? There’s a systemic rot somewhere that still isn’t being addressed.

The argument going on at the moment at the heart of the civil cases isn’t about whether the school knew and should have done something to prevent what they knew was going on, it is over a technicality as to whether a Marist brother is a legal agent of the school or order. What a crock. While the school and the church continues to have the attitude they are displaying currently then every child who attends there is at risk. They’ve had chances to go public, arrest the damage and begin the healing but now they’re stuck aren’t they? There’s no way they can say anymore than they have with legal action pending, so instead the whole thing is going to be played out over the long term via painful language and interpretation that does nothing to expose or remedy the central themes of what has happened nor better reveal the truth.

All that said however, I believe you are correct Viceroy in what you say about those who come out of these things best. But I also believe that the attainment of the peace of which you speak is a process that can sometimes take a lot of work and that all that is happening now is a part of that process for everyone involved.

BerraBoy68 9:39 pm 30 Jun 08

Vicepope – while I understand what your saying, you seem to be saying that its better just to leave it alone and get on with life. Personally, I want the school to come clean and going from the feedback I’ve got to date both on this forum and from other discussion with various Old Boys, so do they and their families. For me, and for many others I’ve spoken to, it’s important for the school to know that we are not happy with what’s been/is happening. Also, there is far more to this story than just Kostka and Lyons. I am informed by a very reliable source that there are more teachers to be named yet in the civil case, so there is a lot left to run in this. The Marist Order ‘appears’ to have been involved in covering up this and other abuses (sexual and physical) for years. They were allowed to to some extent because people felt it better to try and move on with their lives rather than make a fuss. This obvioulsy hasn’t worked judging by the growing level of interest in this case. Lets face it, the Order has been less than honest in its dealings with its community. It can seek to protect its money all it likes but as a product of Marist Canberra, this flies in the face of all the ‘this is all for the benefit of the boys’ claptrap they’ve been spouting to us for years. If they are seeking to protect the money at the expense of honesty and fairness to students (past and present) then the school is just a business, nothing more. What we are talking about here is a religious Order placing thousand of students at-risk by disregarding complaints by parents merely to protect the good name of their Order.

Finally, as already stated Jason Parkinson will be consulted prior to any meeting to ensure nothing is done to jeapordise the civil action.

Getting peace is the best outcome – having the school acknowledge its past failures is a step in the right direction – at present it appears to be covering itself to such an extent that knowing what failures occurred will never be possible because of the alleged dishonesty and failures of the various Headmasters – in which case the same errors can and will likely be repeated. Many Old Boys from Marist Canberra are expressing remorse and shame for not speaking up about the abuse (sexual and physical) they witnessed earlier. All ex-students need to know that the shame in this matter isn’t theirs. If a meeting helps one or two Old Boys to understand that this is the general feeling in the ex-Marist community – then all the better. Oh, and it was again mentioned to me today by an that the suicide rate at the school is apparently significantly higher than other school in the ACT – again something to be verified and discussed.

Again, this isn’t about anger. It’s about getting answers and understanding. When the school is more open and honest with its own community, I’m sure everybody will feel more at peace.

OpenYourMind2 9:22 pm 30 Jun 08

VicePope, the big difference is that Marist’s actions (or lack of) were abhorent then and they are still in damage control now. They still appear to be more interested in protecting the interests of the school than in the interests of the victims. That was the case 25years ago, 15 years ago and is still the case today.

What better example than the ludicrous claim recently by Marist’s legal representatives that the school had ‘no duty of care’ as Br Kostka wasn’t a directly employee.

imhotep 8:46 pm 30 Jun 08

Well said.

VicePope 8:16 pm 30 Jun 08

I was thinking someone has to provide a counter voice, and elected myself. To declare an interest, I’m an old boy of another Marist school (where there was at least one paedophile on staff) and have a family connection to Marist Canberra.

Facts – Marist had two teachers who can be confidently said to have been paedophiles. One is dead. The other is an old man who is in prison. He confessed and, while that (and the death of the other offender) saved the victims from the ordeal of giving evidence, it also prevented them from airing their accounts of his miserable actions.
Facts – paedophiles aren’t exactly unknown in any education system. The clever ones proably still generally pick their marks well and stay below the radar. But their chances of getting into schools and staying there are probably getting thinner.
Facts – after a number of allegations and cases, the Catholic Church inquired and changed a number of processes. (See Bishop Robinson’s book). Antiquated and naive ideas that confused religious confession and forgiveness with a resolution of criminal culpability, civil responsibility and the persistent underlying inclination to paedophilia are now recognised as badly mistaken. They have been discarded in favour of a low-risk approach that encourages the criminal prosecution of offenders who victimise the vulnerable. Not much comfort to those affected in the past, but the best way of ensuring it doesn’t happen in the future.
Fact – there’s civil litigation on foot. Marist and, moreso, its insurer would be irresponsible if they surrendered to any claims as would be the inevitable result of the kind of opening up that is proposed.
Opinion – for most of my working life, I have dealt with conflicts between individuals and between individuals and institutions. Those who come out of those conflicts best are invariably those who close the door after them, or shake the dust of anger from their shoes. As with the bushfire victims still seeking more inquiries and more answers to events so long ago, the ultimate answer is not consequences for the perpetrators or compensation for the victims, but to find some kind of peace. I hope the victims of Chute and Lyons will someday be able to put the hostility away, recognising that the events have caused damage but looking ahead to the rest of their lives.

BerraBoy68 5:53 pm 30 Jun 08

Groundhog agreed, although I think interest in such a group is substantial, perhaps a small planning meeting is in order first.

I’m suggesting a few of us meet early next week at a venue to be arranged. I’ll contact those who have responded so far but more interest from the ex-marist or even Dara RA community and their families and friends is most welcome.

Groundhog 12:08 pm 30 Jun 08

You might only need a small group of active people to make it work. From there, others can lend their support via online, petitions, donations etc….

Mick1965 11:14 am 30 Jun 08

I’ll support 100% – just let me know how this progresses.

Mike Crowther 10:09 am 30 Jun 08

I’d be more than happy to share my experience (in trying to hold an order accountable) with you even address your group if you like.

The order that ran amok when I was at school was totally disbanded and had all of its assets stripped and liquidated by the Bishop. The school name was changed and history rewritten in a manner that would have made Pol Pot blush.

This is why I wished you luck. You are up against some bloody intransigent forces.

O, and get in touch with ‘Broken Rites’ They are based in Melbourne.

BerraBoy68 8:27 am 30 Jun 08

I agree with all teh above but I suppose, we need a first meeting of interested parties to see if:
A) there is enough support for this cause within the ex-marist community (I think there is);
B) what can we do without hurting the civil case (Inviting Jason Parkinson to a first meeting would be good);
C) What can we do to increase pressure on Marist within the bounds of our abilites under(B); and
D) Scope the structure and Terms of Reference for the group.

All for not putting the cart before the horse, but I’m just keen to get a first meeting up and running where we can get the above issues sorted out so we can move ahead fruitfully.

That said, I’d be looking to run the first meeting to discuss the above in the next two weeks with an advert in the paper soon. I just need to organise a venue first, etc..

BerraBoy68 7:31 am 30 Jun 08

Crazyfish – Many Thanks. I also thought about the impact on the current civil case but I think at the very least the creation of a group would send a signal to the school, and the Marist order that “THE MARIST COMMUNITY IS WATCHING – WE WANT THE TRUTH TO COME OUT”.

I’ll certainly let you know how things progress.

Groundhog 7:30 am 30 Jun 08

As a Marist old boy I echo crazyfish’s comments. Some robust thinking required before hanging out a shingle – the proposal needs to feasible, based on accepted practices and made attractive to the wider community of parents, friends and old boys. Perhaps we could also ask the advice of RA lawyers? anyone?

A website would be needed, a public list of real names / spokespeople, process for approving statements, likely a formal structure of association if bank account is to be set up to receive funds for any particular activities, some high profile Marist old boys perhaps as patrons (or something similar)… I could go on…

There is also a significant opportunity with the forthcoming ACT legislative election to put forward some policy/legislation recommendations that would support the civil cases/enquiry/related laws, and boot-strap the issue into the election media coverage. Adopt our policy, get endorsed etc.

Suffice to say, count me in.

crazyfish 9:53 pm 29 Jun 08

As a Marist old boy and someone peripherally involved in recent goings on I think you have the basis for an excellent idea. I think that the question of pushing for an enquiry needs to be considered carefully however as I wonder what effect it would have (maybe none) on the current and forecast civil cases. Maybe they should be left to play out first? Dunno. It would be worth a call to the lawyer in question I think.
Regardless of that issue, I think some form of lobby group is an excellent idea as a way of presenting a coherent and stronger front to the school and the order generally. Count me in!

BerraBoy68 8:58 pm 29 Jun 08

Mike, thanks for the advice and support. I don’t for one minute think Marist (as a school or the Order) will support this idea. Which in a sense is the point of the lobby group. The Order is doing their own thing regardless of the their actions being opposite to doing the right (and christian) thing.

Again, Thank for the good wishes!

Mike Crowther 8:54 pm 29 Jun 08

I suggest you contact the Old Boys network at Parramatta (NSW). They had a Brother Lister (to name nut one) who was a multi-generational Paedophile who ran the attached St. Vincents boys home. Don’t expect any co-operation from the order on this one though, they spirited him away to the USA and had him working under an assumed name. Took the NSW Police ages to track him down and extradite him.

I wish you all the good luck in the world.

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