This priest assaulted girls — and the church kept giving him more victims

By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 13 April 2016

Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission has been told how the Catholic Church allowed a priest, Father Martin Newbold, to commit sex-crimes against young girls. The church concealed his crimes from the police and transferred him from one Australian state to another to protect him. Thus the church inflicted this criminal on more victims in new parishes.

Broken Rites has ascertained that Father Martin Newbold (real name Thomas Parker Newbold) was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, in 1928. In his teens he was recruited as a priest for Western Australia's Perth diocese and he was ordained as a priest on 28 July 1951, aged 23, using the name Father "Martin" Newbold.

Broken Rites has searched through 30 annual editions of the printed Australian Catholic Directory. This research indicates that, originally, from 1951 onwards, Newbold officially belonged to the Perth diocese, where his early parishes included Northam, Wagin and Belmont.

Normally, a diocesan priest spends his career in one diocese. In the mid-1950s, however, Newbolt was transferred, on loan, from the Perth Diocese to the Bunbury diocese, which covers WA's south-west.

Later, he was shunted to the other side of Australia — to Melbourne. One Melbourne girl ("Julia") eventually reported Newbold's crimes to a senior priest but, again, the crime was successfully concealed from the police and Newbold was taken back to Western Australia to abuse more girls there.

In 2014, Julia (now aged 65) spoke to a private hearing of the national child-abuse Royal Commission, telling how the church inflicted Father Newbold on her in Melbourne in 1958 when she was aged nine. Now, more than 50 years later, Julia is still feeling hurt by the church's action in sheltering criminals such as Father Newbold.

The story of Julia is told later in this article. And Julia is not Newbold's only victim. Since Broken Rites began its research in 1993, various women have told us about the crimes of Father Martin Newbold. Below, in this article, we give some examples in chronological order.

Example 1: Kathy, in Western Australia

One Newbold victim, "Kathy", has told Broken Rites that she encountered Father Newbold in the Narrogin parish in the Bunbury diocese, W.A., in the mid-1950s when she was aged 12. Kathy said:

"My parents were very protective. I was ignorant about sex. When I was 12, Newbold arranged for my parents to send me to the presbytery, alone, so that he could give me some 'counselling'. My very loyal Catholic parents trusted any priest.  Newbold's counselling turned out to be about sex.  He exposed himself and digitally penetrated me. I was traumatised.

"Afterwards, I was too scared to tell my parents, and it is only now that they have both died that I feel I need to bring closure to this terrible time in my life."

Example 2: Barbara, in W.A.

Another Newbold victim, "Barbara", encountered Fr Martin Newbold at Narrogin parish (in the Bunbury diocese) in the mid-1950s when she was 15.  As an adult, she has recently told Broken Rites:

"Father Newbold (who was assisting in our parish) arranged for me to receive some personal instruction from him at the presbytery. There he got me into his grip and digitally raped me. I managed to flee.

"Newbold also abused at least one other Catholic girl whom I knew.  This girl told her mother. Her father, who was not a Catholic, complained about Newbold, so the bishop's office transferred him to a different parish (Boyup Brook parish, which was also in Bunbury diocese).

"I did not feel able to tell my parents because I did not want to upset them.

"My father, whom I loved, only heard a bit about it towards the end of his life. I let something slip when he was terminally ill in hospital and he was so upset that I could have cut out my tongue.  I never told him the full story of the rape.

"In 2004 I reported the rape to the Perth Archdiocesan Office but the person there (a layman) did not bother doing anything about it."

Example 3: Julia, in Melbourne

Broken Rites has discovered that, in the late 1950s, Newbold's superiors in Western Australia arranged to send him "on loan" to the other side of Australia — to the Melbourne archdiocese. This transfer would have required a secret "deal" being made between the church hierarchy in Western Australia and the hierarchy in Melbourne.

For the next few years, the annual editions of the Australian Catholic Directory did not reveal where Newbold had gone. He was merely listed in the Bunbury Diocese pages as being absent, "on loan" to an un-named other place.

Newbold was not listed in the directory's Melbourne pages, but Broken Rites research has discovered that he was placed in the West Brunswick parish (St Joseph's) in Melbourne's inner-north. There he sexually assaulted nine-year-old "Julia".

"Julia", who gave evidence in a private session at Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission in 2014, has told Broken Rites:

"My family respected all priests, When Newbold arrived in our parish, my family welcomed him and he became a friend of the family. 

"One day, when he accompanied us on a family picnic, he grabbed me while he was alone with me, and he digitally assaulted me.

"From the age of nine onwards, I didn’t report the assault because I thought it was my fault and must never think badly of a priest.  

"In the mid-1960s, at age 17, I finally told my mother about the assault. We then reported the abuse to a senior priest who was in charge of a neighbouring parish, St Ambrose’s in Sydney Road, Brunswick, but this priest  told my mother to go off and do some shopping while he interviewed me, alone, about the assault.

"The church authorities did not advise us to notify the police, even though a crime had been committed.

"The church moved Newbold back to Western Australia.

"I am not Newbold's only victim in Melbourne. Years later, I learned that my older sister had also been sexually assaulted by Newbold in Melbourne. And I believe that we are not his only Melbourne victims."

In 2014, Julia told her story to Australia's national Royal Commission (see more later in this article).

Example 4: In Western Australia again — more victims

Despite the church knowing about Newbold's crimes, it retained him in the priesthood in accordance with the church's usual practice. Broken Rites has checked the old editions of the annual Australian Catholic Directory and found that, from 1962 to 1964, Newbold was listed as being in charge of the Denmark parish in the Bunbury diocese in Western Australia. But soon,in the 1965 edition, he was listed as being "on leave" again. Surprise, surprise.

In the 1966 edition of the Directory, he re-surfaced as an assistant priest at Albany on W.A. south coast.

From 1967 to 1972, he was in charge of a parish at Kojunup in the Bunbury diocese. Broken Rites has ascertained that Newbold assaulted a number of girls in Kojunup.

Newbold continued his sexual crimes at these W.A. parishes. One Kojonup victim was “Zelda", who was a pupil in a parish primary school when she was abused by Newbold. She has told Broken Rites that Newbold abused lots of girls in Kojonup.

Another female victim, "Tammy", from Kojunup has told Broken Rites thast Newbold abused her when she was seven. Tammy had three other young female relatives who were victims of Newbold in Kojunup.

5: A "chaplain" in Perth

After complaints in Kojonup, Newbold was transferred back to the Perth diocese (where he officially belonged). He was listed in the 1975 directory as a "chaplain" in South Perth. Thus he continued to work as a priest without a parish; this role can include doing relief work for priests who are away.

Newbold eventually became the archivist for the Perth Catholic archdiocese, looking after the church's historical records. Therefore, the church records contain no mention of Newbold's child-sex crimes.

Newbold died in 1977, aged 49.

Royal Commission

In 2014, the above-mentioned Melbourne victim "Julia" had a private hearing with a member of Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commisison. Later, her sister also had a similar private hearing. 

Julia later told Broken Rites:

"The Royal Commission was a great help to me.  I had been feeling angry that I had never been able to see Newbold charged by the police before he died.  However, during his life I would never have considered that acceptable.

"Being able to report to the Royal Commission seemed to lift a great weight.  My anger now is for all those who have suffered and that guilty priests have been protected.  

"I knew that after he left Melbourne, Newbold worked at the Denmark parish in W.A.  On a trip around Australia in 2006, my husband and I visited a small museum in Albany W.A.  There was a cup with a sign saying ‘kindly donated by the Rev Fr Martin Newbold'.  I became almost hysterical when I saw this and told the attendant the sign must be removed.  When I calmed down, I told her that Newbold was a paedophile and that, as Albany is not far from Denmark, there were likely to be women visiting Albany who had been his victims in Denmark. I was very shocked at my own reaction so many years after the event."

Thus, although Father Newbold is deceased, he has not been forgotten by his victims. Therefore, the Perth Catholic Archdiocese ought to file this Broken Rites article in its archives (and make this material easily available to the public), so as to preserve Father Martin Newbold's record for future generations. But that might require a miracle.