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Brother Bernard McGrath: A Detailed Examination of Institutional Abuse

Brother Bernard McGrath is a former member of the St John of God order implicated in child sexual abuse cases in both New Zealand and Australia. His actions have prompted a critical reevaluation of the roles and responsibilities of religious institutions in safeguarding children.

Overview of Allegations

Brother Bernard McGrath faced serious allegations that he sexually abused children at two institutions in Christchurch, New Zealand: Marylands School, Kendall Grange Boys’ Home and Hebron Trust. These allegations highlight significant oversight failures within the institutions caring for vulnerable youth.

Marylands School and Hebron Trust

Marylands School, a facility intended to provide education and care, became a site of profound suffering for many. The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry described the environment at Marylands as highly challenging, with McGrath being a predominant abuser. Operating alongside Marylands, Hebron Trust shared a similar reputation during McGrath’s tenure.

Criminal Convictions for Historical Institutional Child Sexual Abuse

The judicial system ultimately held Brother Bernard McGrath accountable, convicting him of 64 offences and sentencing him to 33 years in prison in New South Wales, Australia. These crimes spanned multiple locations, impacting dozens of children under his care.

Responses to Allegations

Reports suggest that the Catholic Church and the St John of God order did not immediately address the allegations against McGrath. His admissions highlighted a culture of concealment within these institutions, complicating efforts to address the abuses sooner.

Extradition and Trials

McGrath’s resistance to extradition from New Zealand to face charges in Australia delayed his trials until 2018 and 2019. These legal proceedings were pivotal in addressing the scope of his crimes and ensuring accountability.

Institutional Details

  • St Joseph’s Orphanage: Located near Marylands School, this institution was also embroiled in the scandal. It served as a refuge for children, but unfortunately, it also became a place where abuse was reported during the royal commission hearings.
  • Kendall Grange Boys’ Home: Situated in Morriset, New South Wales, Kendall Grange was another significant location in McGrath’s history. A substantial number of abuses were committed here, further illustrating the pattern of relocating problematic figures within the church’s institutions.
  • St John of God Institution: Based in Melbourne, this institution forms part of the broader network involved in the McGrath case, reflecting the systemic issues within the St John of God order.


The cases associated with Brother Bernard McGrath necessitate ongoing vigilance and reform in how religious and educational institutions protect those in their care. At Koffels Solicitors and Barristers, we remain committed to assisting survivors in their legal challenges and recovery processes.

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