Commissioners on the first day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. Photo Contributed Twitter
Commissioners on the first day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. Photo Contributed Twitter Contributed

Treatment by church like 'being raped all over again'

A WOMAN who suffered years of sexual abuse at Lismore's North Coast Children's Home has told the Royal Commission into institutional sex abuse the treatment she received from the Grafton Anglican Diocese was "like being raped all over again".

In a statement read on behalf of the retiree known as "CN", she said the trauma she suffered at the home left her feeling "filthy and worthless" and led to her being resuscitated in hospital following the first of two suicide attempts.

She described being confronted by the smell of faeces and vomit and "20-odd" dirty children when her mother left her and her younger sister to fend for themselves in 1959.

At the home, she was physically, psychologically and sexually abused - raped three times by older boys and subjected to the wrath of "unbelievably cruel" matrons and ministers who beat the children and told them they were "dirty little heathens".

She said she watched Rev Winston Morgan "flogging the children" including Richard "Tommy" Campion, the victim who broke his silence and led a class action against the Anglican Church in 2005.

During her time at the home, CN saw many reverends come and go including former North Coast Children's Home chaplain Allan Kitchingman - a man who the commission is expected to hear was given a position at Lismore by the then Grafton bishop despite being previously convicted of indecently assaulting a male child at Newcastle.

For the most part, the matron at the home was Jean O'Neill, a woman who CN said favoured a family of young orphans - bought them nice clothes and took them to the hairdresser - but subjected others to horrific beatings in her office from where the screams of children would echo through the home.

When she first joined the class action in 2005, the memories were so intense the woman was sedated by her doctor. She became distressed when the group's lawyer Simon Harrison told them Grafton Diocese registrar and former Grafton councillor Pat Comben, who seemed to be "running the show", was "very rude" throughout the negotiations and at one point had "his feet up on a chair and was very blasé saying, 'Bring it on'."

She said that eventually she "didn't see how we could win against the Church" so she accepted her part of an $825,000 settlement- about $11,000 which covered her legal costs.

Giving evidence before the commission on Wednesday, the Professional Standards Director of the Brisbane Diocese, Rodney McClary, said he was concerned Rev Comben and former Bishop Slater had been handling claims on their own and had taken a "hard line" rather than a "pastoral approach". The hearings continue.

Abuse victims can seek support by calling the Victims Access Line on 1800 633 063 or Heartfelt House Northern Rivers on (02) 6628 8940