Newcastle’s grooming of the Altar Boys

true crime conversations

09 Sep 2020 · 45 minutes

Newcastle’s grooming of the Altar Boys
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It’s 1974 in the suburb of Hamilton, which is about four kilometres from the heart of Newcastle. The area is an idyllic backdrop for an Australian childhood, surrounded by incredible natural beauty, with lush bushland and sprawling beaches.  

Many of the working class families in the suburbs of Newcastle are Catholic. Catholics belong to a parish, which has a church and a local priest. The Catholic schools in the area promise to propel students into the professional classes. Maybe they’d grow up and become a teacher or a nurse or a journalist or even a priest themselves.

The three main schools in this particular diocese are Marist Brothers Hamilton, St Pius X in the nearby suburb of Adamstown and Marist Brothers Maitland. Two of these schools are, as their names suggest, run by Marist Brothers, who are an international religious community of men, dedicated to educating young people. 

But on October 8, 1974, something unimaginable happened. A boy named Andrew Nash dies. It will take decades for his family to discover what happened to him. 

In this episode, Jessie speaks with Suzanne Smith. Suzanne is a six-time Walkley Award winning investigative reporter, whose 27-year career in journalism has included senior editorial roles at the ABC, including on Foreign Correspondent, Background Briefing, Lateline and ABC News. During her time at the ABC she reported on the cover-up of clerical abuse, which helped to trigger the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia. 

Suzanne’s new book, Altar Boys, is a powerful expose of widespread and organised clerical abuse of children in one Australian city, and how the cover-up in the Catholic Church extended from parish priests to every echelon of the organisation. 

CREDITS

Guest: Suzanne Smith

Host: Jessie Stephens

Producer: Lem Zakharia 

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