Anthony Foster (6.6.2017)
Written on the 8 June 2017
6 June 2017
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I am pleased to be able to follow on from Mr Jennings to make some remarks in tribute to Anthony Foster. Can I at the outset give my sympathies to Chrissie, Katie, Aimee and their extended families at this very sad time. So much has already been said about the life of Anthony Foster, described by many as a man of empathy, a man of courage and someone with a big heart. He was generous, determined, articulate, dignified and above all a family man. He was a man who defended his family, advocated to right the wrongs and the injustice bestowed on his beloved daughters, and for years since he had been advocating not only on behalf of Emma and Katie but also the thousands of others who suffered heinous child abuse by those who were entrusted with their care.
I had the great privilege to meet Anthony during the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations. As chair of that inquiry, it was the evidence given by Anthony, Chrissie and their youngest daughter, Aimee that spoke not only of the shocking treatment they received from leaders in the church, but the horrific ongoing after-effects suffered by their family.It was powerful and moving and I for one will never forget how I felt hearing the experience that this family had to endure, the emotion that was apparent amongst the committee as we sat and listened to the heartfelt testimonies from Anthony, from Chrissie and from Aimee, and the love and support they all gave Katie who sat next to Anthony. His love and care for her was very evident that day.
I am sure those emotions were also felt by those sitting in the gallery, for those listening to the hearing, the media who were present and for the many staff of the Parliament who also were involved in that inquiry.
No-one could not have been moved by what we heard and the accounts of what Anthony and his family had to endure. The courageous pursuit of the Catholic Church's handling of child abuse by Anthony, together with Chrissie, I have no doubt gave hundreds of victims the confidence to come forward to either the Victorian inquiry or to speak with Taskforce Sano, which was set up as a result of the Victorian inquiry, about the abuse they themselves or their family members had suffered from a range of individuals within various organisations.
Those hundreds of victims in Victoria at the time of our inquiry has led to thousands across Australia having the courage to speak to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, victims that looked toward the leadership and strength of Anthony Foster, who became the public face and was relentless in wanting the truth to be exposed and to have the wrongs of the past acknowledged also through a royal commission.So I was shocked to have received a phone call from Peter Fox, who told me about Anthony's accident and the very critical state that he was in at that time. I had met up with Peter just a week before at a victims of crime forum here in Melbourne where we had been speaking about the extraordinary efforts of Anthony and Chrissie throughout the royal commission and their input into the Victorian parliamentary inquiry.
At the time when I was with Peter I think he mentioned to me that he was going to be having lunch with them the next day. It reminded me of the last time I had seen both Anthony and Chrissie, which was in a small cafe in Murrumbeena. I just happened to be walking in, and they were sitting there meeting with someone having a cup of coffee. We spoke about the Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the recommendations the committee had made, which included strengthening the criminal law to include compulsory reporting to police, a new child endangerment offence and a new grooming offence, making access to civil litigation easier for victims. Of course we spoke about the royal commission and its ongoing efforts. Well, that was quite some months ago, and so much has happened since then.Throughout the proceedings of the royal commission, Anthony and Chrissie have been extraordinary in their support of others, as was acknowledged by the chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan. He is reported to have said that Anthony and Chrissie:
attended hundreds of days of public hearings and participated in many of our policy round tables.And:
With a dignity and grace, Anthony and Chrissie generously supported countless survivors and their families whilst also managing their own grief.
Such is the strength of Anthony and Chrissie. If I can finally just add that at the conclusion of his evidence given to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry, Anthony said:
Thank you for listening to us, and I implore you to make the changes that are necessary. I implore you to ensure that the past victims are not forgotten. It is not over for them. The victims who have been put through the Catholic Church system need to be looked after much better than they have been, and we need to be sure, as best we can, that all the victims who are out there, who are on the edge now, do not fall over it. Thank you.There are many, many Victorians and Australians who want to say, 'Thank you, Anthony Foster'. Thank you for all that you have done so that victims have been heard, legislative change has been made, victims are not forgotten and that all of us need to support those victims so that they do not fall any further than they already have. In this context, Anthony Foster's legacy will be remembered for many years to come.