knowmore’s Executive Officer Warren Strange was interviewed by Rebecca Levingston on 612 ABC Brisbane about the conviction of George Pell.
This conviction is an important moment for survivors, for those who were not believed and were silenced for so long. Child sexual abuse is fundamentally about the misuse of power against vulnerable children. The Royal Commission exposed so many instances where institutions and their officials misused their power to ensure that survivors were not believed and their allegations were dismissed or covered up.
An excerpt of the interview is included below.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: The reverberations of the conviction of Cardinal George Pell are continuing around the world. As a consequence of yesterday’s revelations, are you expecting to receive a spike in calls from people seeking support?
WARREN STRANGE: We had a number of calls from people, and some expressed a strong sense of appreciation that our legal system will work to hold even very senior and influential people to account. Inherently, these sorts of outcomes are traumatising for people, because it brings up the circumstances of their own experience, so it can often be a difficult and challenging time for survivors.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Does this verdict show that no one- anyone, regardless of their power or their position in any institution, will be treated equally by the law?
WARREN STRANGE: I think it it does. It shows that everyone is equal before the law when our system is working as it should, and that in cases where police and prosecutors believe sufficient evidence exists, that charges will proceed and will be determined by the court, as they should be.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: But is it harder and more complicated for an individual – and I know you’ve had some 9000 people walk through your doors over the course of the last six or so years – is it more challenging as an individual when they are raising concerns about a high profile person, about an identity in the community?
WARREN STRANGE: I think so. And fundamentally, child sexual abuse in an institutional context is about misuse of power and it’s about betrayal of trust. And survivor’s who’ve experienced that have been silenced and unable to speak out as children, very often – and we know that many survivors take years and often decades to be able to make an effective disclosure about what happened to them. So, in those circumstances, I think the outcome does send a message to survivors that no one is beyond the law.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Is there a concentration of claims in a particular capital city?
WARREN STRANGE: Queensland continues to be over-represented in our client group compared to the general population level; that’s replicated in a couple of other states, but Queensland unfortunately is leading the way there. And we’ve often speculated about reasons for that – Queensland has had a previous redress scheme following the inquiry that was led by Leneen Ford, and in some respects, Queensland probably has a survivor population that is perhaps better connected and more aware around some of their legal rights, so that might impact on coming forward and exercising those rights and contacting us.