Gympie man's child abuse horror story nears final chapter

JOE Kiernan was born into a real-life Stephen King horror story in 1960.

Stolen from his unmarried mother at birth, "because that's what they did then," he was sent to the infamous St Joseph's orphanage at Neerkol, near Rockhampton - an institution so evil its grounds include a memorial to the abused children who died there.

A Gympie survivor of unimaginable abuse, Mr Kiernan was able to smile at times yesterday as he told of his feelings, now the prosecutions have begun and the truth has come out at a Royal Commission.

"Some former residents don't want the buildings destroyed, but it's owned by other people now and they have a right to do what they want," Mr Kiernan said yesterday.

And he said the demolition crews might just find some gruesome reminders of the Neerkol horror story.

"So be it," Mr Kiernan said yesterday.

"They might find some bodies or bones.

"If they do and there are some without death certificates, it's back in the hands of the police."

SURVIVOR: Gympie's Joe Kiernan says justice is finally on the way for him and fellow victims of institutional child abuse, thanks to the Royal Commission inquiry, due to conclude next month after four years.
SURVIVOR: Gympie's Joe Kiernan says justice is finally on the way for him and fellow victims of institutional child abuse, thanks to the Royal Commission inquiry, due to conclude next month after four years. Renee Albrecht

Mr Kiernan is one of thousands of people who survived the care of church and state and who have now given evidence to the Child Abuse Royal Commission.

The commission, now in its final stages after four years, will present its final report in five weeks.

It has investigated schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations across Australia, including how they responded to "allegations and instances of child sexual abuse."

Its final report will make recommendations aiming "to support and inform Australian governments, institutions and the general public in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse in institutional contexts."

It will also document, for the public record, the experiences of people like Mr Kiernan, one of several witnesses who testified about their experiences at Neerkol.

The report will be made public after being submitted to Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and to parliament.

Gympie Times


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