KIDS? HOME ABUSE SCANDAL SPREADS
By HEATH GILMORE
RICHARD 'Tommy' Campion's anguished revelations about his treatment at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore 40 years ago have seen nine other former home residents join him in the allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
They have hired a solicitor with plans to launch a group claim against the Anglican Church, which ran the home.
The Anglican Church has said it is taking the matter seriously and has launched an investigation into the claims.
THE blows fell repeatedly on the skinny, bony form of Richard 'Tommy' Campion.
An adult hand gripped him under the armpit, holding up the eight-yearold for the next arcing delivery of the riding crop.
Again and again the crop came down until the whipping hand was exhausted.
With his back split open and bleeding, Tommy collapsed on the parquet floor inside the North Coast Children's Home dormitory in Lismore.
The little boy choked back tears of rage and frustration as the other boys standing next to their beds stared ahead.
None of the other boys in the dorm moved, terrified they would be next. Later in the night they just whispered tentatively but consolingly across the room to Tommy: 'Are you all right?'.
More than 40 years later, Tommy is unsure whether he's all right as he recounts the beating that he alleges took place that night. He struggles to talk through the tears.
This week the award-winning photographer who was known for his lairish behaviour and clothes rocked the Northern Rivers with his allegations of systemic physical and sexual abuse at the Children's Home in Lismore.
The allegations became public during an interview with Fiona Wyllie on ABC North Coast radio this week after Tommy had a letter published in The Northern Star asking for any former home kids to contact him.
However, earlier this year, Tommy had raised the matter privately with the Anglican Church which ran the home.
In the letter to the church, dated August 29, he catalogued a horrific series of abuses visited upon him and others at the home, including being preyed upon by a paedophile.
The six-page letter detailed example after example of children being regularly beaten senseless, starved and taunted.
On September 2, he received a reply from the Diocese of Grafton's registrar Pat Comben that the Church's Professional Standards Committee was investigating the matter.
Mr Comben said: "I am unable to adequately express my personal feelings of revulsion, sorrow and helplessness which the letter raises inside me.
"I have no hesitation in speaking on behalf of the Diocese in saying that we will do all that we can to assist you."
After sending the letter, Tommy engaged solicitor Simon Harrison, who has developed a reputation in Queensland for pursuing institution-based abuse cases, most notably a case at Churchie, Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane.
The solicitor, from the Brisbane firm Nicol Robinson Halletts, said he would start a group and individual actions against the Anglican Church over the abuses suffered at the home.
Mr Harrison said that since Tommy began speaking with other home kids they had already collected nine other abuse cases.
He said a number of them corroborated Tommy's allegations as well as adding their own complaints. However, he was unable to supply their names to The Northern Star at this stage.
"With all due respect to the other cases I've handled in the past, I think that Richard's (Tommy's) allegations are the worst that I have come across in terms of systemic abuse that was carried out," Mr Harrison said.
"In these particular cases some of the abusers are still alive."
Yesterday, Dean Peter Catt, the Commissary for the Bishop of Grafton Keith Slater, said all the complaints were being taken seriously.
Dean Catt declined to say whether he thought the com- plaints were true.
What do you think?
Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- email@example.com