A LOCAL counsellor and the brother of a young man whose life was allegedly ruined by Father F have banded together to push for the reinstatement of public counselling services for child victims of sexual assault.
When the Armidale and District Child Sexual Assault Counselling Service shut down in August last year, Susan Rosevear opened a private practice called RoseTree for underage sexual assault victims and adult survivors, but she says a public service is also required to provide a long-term counselling plan for the region.
In conjunction with Damian Jurd’s brother, Peter, she will submit a proposal to the State Government in the next month for a public counselling service, to be known as Hummingbird.
Peter Jurd was interviewed for the Four Corners program ‘Unholy Silence’, which exposed the alleged cover-up of sex abuse claims against a former Catholic priest who served in the Armidale diocese in the 1980s.
His brother Damian died aged 28 after never recovering from allegedly being abused by Father F as an 11-year-old altar boy.
Mr Jurd said he was motivated to support Hummingbird after discovering the importance of the child sexual assault counselling service to the wider region.
“The service that was here serviced that entire area,” he said. “I think it’s something that should really be looked into, since what’s happened in recent times and what’s come into light really shows a need for such a service.”
The proposal is backed by Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay, who has offered to submit the plan to Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward.
“I’m encouraged that there are people like Mr Jurd and Ms Rosevear who are pursuing better public services in this area of counselling for our region,” he said.
“If we can get people to organise and manage this service, I’ll make an approach to regain the previous allocation of funds that has since been withdrawn.”
Mr Jurd and Ms Rosevear are encouraging victims of child sexual assault to seek counselling or alert police, stressing that counselling options were still available locally despite the loss of the public service.
“I encourage anyone who may be a victim to firstly talk to someone about what has happened to you and secondly, if you feel that it’s something you feel comfortable doing, go to the police and tell them your story,” Mr Jurd said.
“What we don’t want to be seen to be doing is saying, look, come forward, you have to, there’s an obligation to. It’s just encouraging anyone who may be ready to use the counselling services available.”
Since the Four Corners program aired, police have established a taskforce to investigate sex abuse claims against the former priest, who is known as Father F for legal reasons. The Catholic Church has also commissioned an independent inquiry, headed by former Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam, into its handling of the case.
Mr Jurd said he had been encouraged by the developments since the airing of the program.
“It’s a credit to Four Corners, they followed it through and were the ones that instigated everything that followed,” he said.
“I just hope that, with everything that’s happening now, the victims will finally see a bit of justice.”
For inquiries about Hummingbird support services call 0478-106-460.