Spoken in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria 06 June 2017.
Anthony Foster and his partner Chrissie’s contribution to Victorian and Australian society will be remembered as both individuals and a couple who in the face of pain that no parent should ever have to endure stood up for not just their innocent daughters who were subject to sexual abuse and the cover-up that ensued, but for all the innocents who had been subject to institutional care providers’ abuse, be they church or otherwise.
I first met both Anthony and Chrissie with the tireless Ann Barker who then, as the MP for Oakleigh, worked with the Fosters as their local MP to champion their cause and to push their particular family’s campaign against the inequities of the Melbourne Response, also known as Towards Healing, in the Catholic Church on allegations of sexual abuse. Over the subsequent years and a number of occasions where I had the opportunity to speak with the Fosters and Ann and the growing movement of survivors in sexual abuse not just in the Catholic Church but in wider institutional care, their leadership has been inspirational.
Whether it was through the Victorian parliamentary inquiry in the last Parliament which led to the very important Betrayal of Trust report or whether it was through his and Chrissie’s efforts in the still-to-report Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Anthony’s stoic and sustained contribution to the cause of both recovery and restoration for survivors of sexual abuse in the church was absolutely outstanding, as too was his campaign for accountability and reconciliation not just through an appropriate resolution of complaints process but for justice for the wider survivor community. These efforts, as have been indicated, will be, we are confident, reflected in the reports that are finding their way through the current royal commission.
I recently caught up with Anthony at the launch of Louise Milligan’s book detailing the plight of many survivors — and sadly many of those who did not survive the sexual abuse — at the hands of the clergy in the Catholic Church. Their journey parallels the career of Australia’s most senior Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell, with whom Anthony had many dealings and encounters.
That book details the meeting between the cardinal and Anthony, where Anthony’s decency and campaign for justice can be seen in very deeply personal terms.
His journey and his efforts to bring justice, not just for his own daughters but for the wider survivor community and for the many who have been lost along the way, parallels his desire to see his church — his faith — reconcile with its past and perhaps more importantly with its mission for support and nurturing for those at the heart of its pastoral practice. Let his enduring monument be the achievement of a new approach, not just in how we as a society deal with sexual abuse of children and innocents, but let it be a renewal of the pastoral care and community development model that lies at the heart of how he saw his church and his faith operating in the modern world.
I am sure I speak for all honourable members in offering our sincere and deepest sympathies to Chrissie and family and to all those who loved him. Long may his memory endure.