STEVE Smith’s daughter remembers the day in 2001 when her father drove to a court case that nearly broke him.
The dreadful details of that child sex trial against Newcastle Anglican priest George Parker – including “considerable doubt” about the veracity of diary entries used to stop the case – were only revealed to Mr Smith’s family during a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing in August.
In an open letter to “abusers of children and those who help conceal those crimes”, that was one of the final documents tendered as evidence on the royal commission’s final public hearing day on Friday, Mr Smith’s daughter Danika spoke about the ripple effect of child sexual abuse on the families of the abused.
“You ensured a traumatic childhood for us where our Dad was emotionally unavailable because he was just trying to survive every day. He closed off from the world, including even his kids at times,” said Danika, who did not want her surname revealed.
“I knew a little about what had happened to my Dad, but it wasn’t until the royal commission that I found out the extent to which the horrific crimes against my father were carried out and then later covered up with great effort by the church.”
Mr Smith told the royal commission he was sexually abused by Reverend Parker for four years from the age of 10. His mother reported the abuse to the then Newcastle Anglican Bishop Ian Shevill who was dismissive.
In 1984 Mr Smith first told the diocese it had a “network” of paedophiles preying on children. The royal commission heard distressing evidence of senior diocese members, including clergy and lay people, who were aware of child sex allegations but failed to act, and protected clergy sex abusers.
The royal commission also heard evidence of Reverend Parker’s trial after Mr Smith reported his abuse to police. Parker was supported by Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence, and represented by lawyers and senior diocese members Keith Allen and Paul Rosser, QC.
The trial ended after a diary was brought to court by then diocese registrar Peter Mitchell, who was later convicted of defrauding the diocese of a substantial sum. The diary appeared to show Reverend Parker could not have been at a location at times when Mr Smith said he was abused.
Danika said the court case left her father in darkness and isolation.
“He didn’t tell us anything about it. I only found out about the 2001 hearing while watching the royal commission online,” she said.
Danika said the child sexual abuse “cost my parents their marriage, and cost my siblings and I our happy childhood home”.
Her father’s sexual abuse by a priest as a child, and the church’s clear protection of the abuser at her father’s expense, left Danika and her siblings distrusting the world and particularly distrusting religion.
“After what I know now, my child will never be baptised, never attend a school that is in any way affiliated with a religion. You not only hurt my Dad but you made sure none of his children will ever have anything to do with your church. Never.”
Danika said she was “incredibly proud” of her father, who taught his children to believe in themselves and “stand up for what is right even if no one is standing with you”.
“We are only one family. One victim. If you consider how many people were victims of sexual abuse within the church you can begin to realise the damage, pain, anguish and trauma so many families have experienced,” she wrote.
“My heart breaks for the families living without loved ones because the pain was too great.”