The church covered up a Reverend Brother’s crimes but his victims have got him in court again in 2018

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 20 February 2018

When Frank Keating became a De La Salle Brother in his late teens, he was given the religious name "Brother Ibar", in honour of an ancient Irish saint. But Brother "Ibar" Keating was no saint — he was committing sexual crimes against his pupils. His superiors knew this but they allowed him to continue offending in Catholic schools around Australia for many years more. Eventually, some of Keating's victims reported him to the police, and he was jailed. In March 2018, Keating is in court again after more of his victims have spoken to the police. Broken Rites will continue its research about Frank "Ibar" Keating and about the church's cover-up of his crimes.

Frank Terence Keating (born in Melbourne on 10 September 1942) worked as a reverend Brother, teaching in De La Salle schools in several Australian states from the 1960s to the 1990s.

For years (according to evidence given in court in 1997) Brother Ibar Keating habitually put his hand inside his pupils' pants and interfered with their genitals. The offences happened at school, in sports changing rooms, at school camps, in the Brothers' residence and in the victims' homes. Under criminal law in Australia, this crime is called indecent assault of a child, and it is particularly serious when it is committed by a person who has authority over the child.

Keating left the De La Salle Order in 1991 and then worked in ordinary Catholic schools as a lay teacher ("Mister Keating") until the police caught up with him in 1997 for offences committed in his earlier years. These earlier offences led to him being convicted in Victoria and again in Queensland (for offences committed in those two states), and he was jailed.

Keating's barrister said in court that Frank Keating came from a family of five children. He was originally a pupil of the De La Salle Brothers at St Ignatius primary school in Richmond, Melbourne. At age 14, he was recruited as an aspirant for the brotherhood and became a boarder at the De La Salle junior seminary at Castle Hill in western Sydney, where he completed his secondary education. This was followed by two years of religious training and two years of teacher training.

In 1964-67, Brother Ibar was on the staff of a De La Salle boys' school in Western Australia. Since then, this school has amalgamated with a girls' school and has became known now as La Salle College, Middle Swan (Midland, WA).

In 1968-71, he taught at Oakhill College, Castle Hill (Sydney).

In 1972-78, Ibar Keating taught Year 7 and Year 8 students at De La Salle College in Malvern, Melbourne. And it was some of his  Melbourne victims who eventually (in their adult years) got Keating convicted for his crimes against them.

Charged in Melbourne, 1997

In the 1990s, when Broken Rites began researching church sexual abuse, we began receiving calls from former students of Brother Ibar Keating in Victoria. We gave these callers the contact details for the Victoria Police Sexual-Offences and Child-Abuse Investigation Teams (the SOCIT units).

One ex-student finally contacted the Victoria Police in 1997, and detectives easily located a large number of Victorian victims, 12 of whom signed formal statements.

One victim told police that Brother Ibar "indecently assaulted most of the boys in my class". One boy said he had been indecently assaulted while he sat at his desk with other students looking at him and sniggering.

The victims told the police that the Catholic culture prevented them from contacting the police in the 1970s.

In the Melbourne Magistrates Court in December 1997, Keating (then aged 55) pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting twelve boys (aged 12 and 13) at De La Salle College in Malvern, Melbourne, between 1972 and 1978.

The victims were not required to appear in court.

On 17 February 1998, Keating appeared before Judge Crossley in the Melbourne County Court for sentencing.

A Broken Rites researcher was present throughout the Melbourne court proceedings, taking notes.

Victoria Police alleged (and Keating's barrister, Edward Delany, confirmed) that the De La Salle order knew during the 1970s that Brother Ibar was sexually abusing boys in Melbourne but it let him continue teaching.

After a parent protested in 1978 about his son being abused, the De La Salle order still did not get rid of Brother Ibar. Instead, it rewarded him by supporting him for two years' study at a university in South Australia.

Next, in 1981 the De La Salle order appointed Brother Ibar to its school (now called Southern Cross Catholic College) in Scarborough, near Brisbane, Queensland, where he became deputy principal and then principal.

Brother Ibar left the brotherhood in 1991 and worked as a lay teacher ("Mr Keating") at Catholic schools in Port Augusta and Port Pirie (South Australia) in 1992-3 and in Ferntree Gully and Werribee (Victoria) in 1993-5. He then worked as an administrator in the Catholic Education Office, Melbourne, until the Victoria Police charged him in 1997.

Keating's barrister told the Melbourne County Court that Keating was "not a real paedophile" because (he said), while at Scarborough, Brother Keating had a ten-year heterosexual relationship with a woman. (The barrister did not explain how this ten-year flouting of Keating's vow of celibacy should influence the court in Keating's favour.)

Impact statements, 1998

Some victims submitted a written impact statement to the Melbourne County Court, explaining how Brother Ibar's abuse affected their life. The purpose of such statements is to help the judge to decide an appropriate sentence.

One victim said he had been silently upset about the assaults for 20 years. He said: "My memory is that Ibar's superiors knew what was happening. That they did nothing to stop it continuing has totally destroyed my faith and trusts in teachers and religious teachers in particular."

Judge Crossley commented that Keating sometimes bribed victims with money or gifts to silence them.

In sentencing Keating, Judge Crossley commented about the action of the De La Salle order in recruiting Keating into the order at such an early age. The judge told Keating: "I accept that your sexual development was confused and retarded over many years. That circumstance was no doubt contributed to by the fact of your early recruitment into the Brotherhood and the vows you took upon your final entry into the order."

Jailed in Victoria, 1998

The Melbourne County Court proceedings in 1998 ended when Judge Crossley sentenced Frank Keating to three years' jail, eight months of which was to be served behind bars with the remainder suspended.

The Melbourne County Court case related only to crimes committed in Victoria but a Victorian victim alerted the media in the other states where Ibar/Keating had worked — Queensland and South Australia. Keating's Victorian conviction was widely reported in the media in Brisbane, Scarborough, Adelaide and Port Pirie. This was likely to encourage more victims to contact the police.

Therefore, De La Salle's Australian head office in Sydney tried to harness other victims of Keating. It issued a press release in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, apologising for Keating's "misconduct" (no mention of criminal offences). The statement urged all victims to phone a De La Salle number in Sydney to arrange free "counselling".

The statement would have been more genuine if it had given the phone numbers for the police child-abuse units. Experience proves that, when victims report sexual crimes firstly to the church or to a church "counselling" service, the victims choose not to notify the police.

Convicted in Queensland in 2000

After reading about the Victorian conviction, one Queensland victim contacted Broken Rites, which gave him the phone number of the Queensland Police child exploitation unit. This victim put the police in touch with more Queensland victims and Keating was then charged in Queensland.

In Brisbane District Court in April 2000, Frank Terence Keating (then aged 57) pleaded guilty to molesting 12 boys on 33 occasions in the 1980s at De La Salle College, Scarborough, Queensland.

Keating's defence counsel said that in late 1991, after a decade at Scarborough, Keating was given six months "sabbatical" leave in the USA. Back in Australia, he stayed at a De La Salle house in Sydney and then left the order. In 1992 he became a lay teacher at Catholic schools in South Australia and Melbourne.

In sentencing Keating, Judge Robertson criticised the De La Salle Brothers for remaining silent about Keating while he continued committing crimes against children. The judge said it was another sad case where church organisations should have taken steps to prevent such behaviour but did not.

Judge Robertson sentenced Keating to 12 months’ jail but he suspended this because Keating had already been behind bars in Victoria in 1998 for Victorian offences.

In court again, 2018

In March 2018, Frank Terrence Keating will appear in the Melbourne County Court because more of his Victorian victims have contacted the Sex Crimes Squad of the Victoria Police. The police investigator is Senior Detective Peita Measham, of Victoria Police's Sano Taskforce.