HUNTER abuse survivors whose calls for Anglican child sex offender Graeme Lawrence to lose his Order of Australia have fallen on deaf ears want an inquiry into Australia's honours system after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Cardinal George Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia.
Steve Smith, who was sexually abused by a priest protected by Lawrence, has written six emails to the Honours Secretariat since 2012, when Lawrence was defrocked, calling for the former Newcastle Anglican Dean to lose the OAM he received in 2004.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's swift response on Wednesday to Pell's failed appeal against child sex convictions, and the stripping of honours from other prominent Australians convicted of crimes, including Rolf Harris and Eddie Obeid, was in stark contrast to the seven years of silence about Lawrence, Mr Smith said.
The Honours Secretariat did not respond to Mr Smith's email on July 27, advising that Lawrence had been convicted of child sex offences and repeating his protest about the OAM, until the Newcastle Herald sought comment on Thursday.
Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon described the Honours Secretariat's failure to respond to Mr Smith as "astonishingly bad treatment" of a survivor, and said she backed his concerns about the opaque nature of honours' administration and the stripping of awards.
"We should be taking a lead and exploring all the options available to put a stop to ad hoc, behind closed doors decision-making in the Australian honours system," Ms Claydon said.
Newcastle Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart also supported survivors' calls for the removal of "symbols and tokens of honour for those who have caused criminal harm".
"Survivors of abuse have been clear that perpetrators of abuse should not be held in honour by the church or the community. Members of the Diocese share that view," Bishop Stuart said.
"Over the last few years we have seen pictures taken down, honour boards changed and other steps taken as tangible expressions that a person who has exercised a role or responsibility is not held in esteem."
Mr Smith said an inquiry was needed to "look at the whole issue of honours and what happens after these kinds of cases".
"It absolutely diminishes the honours system if someone like Lawrence isn't stripped of his Order of Australia, while the Prime Minister steps in on this one high profile case and says Pell should lose his," Mr Smith said.
"Did Morrison say that because the public wanted the prime minister to join the general pile-on against the Cardinal, or was it from a point of principle about people with honours who are later convicted of child sex offences?"
Mr Smith first wrote to the Secretariat, which administers honours within the Office of the Governor-General, in 2012 calling for Lawrence to lose his Order of Australia after he was defrocked following church disciplinary proceedings.
Mr Smith wrote again in 2013 and 2015, and twice in 2016 after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard shocking evidence about Lawrence's power and influence in Newcastle that protected notorious Anglican child sex offenders including priest Peter Rushton.
On July 27, a day after Lawrence was convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage Ben Giggins at Christ Church Cathedral deanery in 1991, Mr Smith emailed the Honours Secretariat in protest at Lawrence's OAM.
He reminded the Honours Secretariat he had written repeatedly calling for action against Lawrence, and described the former Dean's OAM as "an affront to all victims of child sexual abuse, including myself".
"It devalues the award and is an insult to all legitimate holders of an Order of Australia," he wrote.
He praised Newcastle City Council and Lord Mayor Nuatalia Nelmes for acting "swiftly and properly by stripping Lawrence of all civic honours".
"I would expect the same consideration from the Honours Secretariat," Mr Smith said.
During the trial in Newcastle Mr Giggins told the court that after he was sexually assaulted Lawrence told him: "Don't bother telling anyone. You're just a boy and I am the Dean. No one will believe you."
Mr Giggins said it was important to remove honours from Lawrence and others convicted of serious crimes because "we've got to make history right".
"In 50 years' time someone will look up the list of people holding honours and awards and if they've still got them, it looks like they were a respected member of the community," Mr Giggins said.
"When Scott Morrison said Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia I thought it was funny how the high profile ones get a response straight away. Maybe he was trying to get some ticks with the voters."
He was pleased at Newcastle Council's confirmation on the day of Lawrence's conviction that it would strip his Freeman of the City honour because "people don't want that to be held by someone who's a convicted child sex offender".
Mr Smith said honours had been "the mask these guys wear to say 'I'm a pillar of society'."
But the honours were also an "extraordinary obstacle" for victims of child sexual abuse.
"You're not only fighting the person, you're fighting the community's perception of the person," he said.
"If you said that someone like Lawrence had sexually assaulted you, people would look at him and say 'How could he possibly be this monster if he's such a good person that he has an Order of Australia'?" Mr Smith said.
A formal inquiry could consider the processes by which people are stripped of Orders and whether they were responding to contemporary demands and community expectations, he said.
Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft, who resigned after devastating evidence at the royal commission about his failure to respond to serious allegations about priests including Lawrence, should also be stripped of his Order of Australia, Mr Smith said.
"Herft at least put his hand up and acknowledged he'd failed the people of Newcastle but he shouldn't have that Order," Mr Smith said.
"If somebody offered me an Order of Australia Medal I'd refuse it because I wouldn't want my name in the same list as Pell and Lawrence and Herft. It's sullied by having them there," he said.
A spokesperson for the Honours and Awards Secretariat said appointments to the Order of Australia could be terminated and one of the grounds is conviction of a crime.
"The Council for the Order of Australia (the Council) investigates matters brought to its attention and considers each case individually. In the case of a conviction for a crime or offence all legal proceedings need to be completed," the spokesperson said.
"Once all legal proceedings have run their course, the Council for the Order of Australia may make a recommendation to the Governor-General. The Honours and Awards secretariat responds and actions correspondence received from the public."