Father Peter Brock – Maitland-Newcastle Institutional Child Abuse
Father Peter Brock was born on the 18th of September 1945, ordained in the late 1960s as a priest at the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and died on the 11th of September in 2014. He had been highly respected as a member of the Newcastle and Maitland community. Due to his choral music commitment, Father Peter Brock was awarded an honorary master’s degree in 1987 by the University of Newcastle. Also, his dedicated service to choirs in the Hunter and the Catholic Church won him the Australia Medal and the Newton-John Award in 1989.
His fortunes began to falter when in 2008, he was charged with 22 child sexual abuse offences, in which two twin brothers were victims during the 1970s. 18 of the 22 charges were counts of indecent assault, two counts of buggery and the last two of indecency. The church’s investigation, court documents and the victims’ accounts showed that Father Peter Brock’s engaged in a range and pattern of behaviours between 1968 and 1975, which constituted sexual misconduct according to the NSW Ombudsman Act of 1974.
One of the victims, John Parmeter made it public by reporting to the media and gave accounts of how he and his brother were sexually abused for many years by the prominent Australian priest starting from 1968 when they were just 9 years old. Mr Parmeter felt unable to come forward until 2007 aged nearly 50, due to the Catholic church’s culture of silence. Afterwards, the Newcastle Police Force carried out “Strike Force Georgiana” on many religious brethren among which Father Peter Brock.
Subsequently, the Director of Public Prosecution withdrew the 22 charges against Father Brock in 2009 at a committal hearing. Despite following the requirement of the state law by the Catholic Church conducting an internal investigation on Father Brock, the church still felt the need to praise Father Brock and elevated him to an important national role in 2010. This repeated cover-up led Mr Parmeter to feel like he was being abused all over again and he felt the need to come forward and expose the church to help other victims of the church to come out.
HOW THE INSTITUTIONAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE STARTED
Father Brock became a regular visitor of the Parmeter family in the early years of his ministry. He would play cards and drink alcohol whenever he visited the family’s house. He began to show interest in the Parmeter’s 9-year-old twins and as loyal Catholics, the family trusted their twins with the priest. He did provide the boys with musical tuition and was trusted with custody of the family’s children in his parish house (presbytery). The priest groomed the boys by introducing the “Strip Jack Naked” card game, where a losing player would have to undress depending on the cards dealt.
Starting from physical hugs, Father Brock’s behaviour towards the boys became increasingly sexual. By the time the boys reached the age of 13, they had suffered child sexual abuse on multiple occasions from the priest but could not tell their parents about it. It was reported that one of the boys had been repeatedly raped by Father Brock by playing the card game in the counselling rooms at the presbyteries over a period of two years. When the boys were 15 John said he was taken on at least 6 occasions by the priest to a Newcastle house where several men had sexually assaulted him after being plied with alcohol. And during each of the occasions, Ashleigh Edward Jarrold, a dentist from Hamilton was present and had sexually assaulted him on two of the occasions.
John Parmeter further alleged that sometimes Father Brock would watch pornography in another room, while he was being sexually assaulted by Jarrold and some unidentified men. On each of these occasions, Father Brock was found to always undress and masturbate on the lounge, when males were assaulting the boy. The court found that the boy was taken to the house sporadically till he was 21. Also, other allegations showed that Father Brock would sexually abuse the boys on camping trips.
WHY WAS THE SEXUAL ABUSE CASE WITHDRAWN?
In May 2008, John Parmeter requested an apology from Father Brock. The priest wrote an apology admitting his wrongdoing. However, he was very careful with his words using “pain” and “distress” in the letter, rather than “sexual assault” or “abuse”. In a recess, during one of the court’s sittings on the case, John experienced a total breakdown due to failing emotional health. As a result, the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the case by announcing that it was dropping the charges.
THE CIVIL SETTLEMENT
The church carried out an internal investigation and gave an incorrect impression that Father Brock had been officially cleared. The twin protested and through a lawyer requested a civil settlement with the Newcastle-Maitland Catholic Diocese. The diocese agreed to bring their usual condition that the victims must sign away with their legal rights to sue the church for future damages and would give an ex gratia payment to each victim. Although the amount paid to the victims exceeded that the church usually paid in a private settlement, the amount could not make up for the damage done to each of the Parmeter brothers.
Father Brock after his death in 2014 had his honorary degree and university award from the University of Newcastle stripped in 2018 following a protest from Hunter survivor advocate Bob O ‘Toole.
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