The Marist Brothers covered up Brother Gerard Rush's crimes but some victims got him convicted

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 11 February 2018

Broken Rites is doing further research about how the Marist Brothers leadership in Australia covered up for Brother Gerard Rush who committed sexual offences against young boys in Catholic boarding schools. For many years, these crimes were successfully concealed from the police but eventually a former student exercised his right to speak to police detectives who soon found more of Brother Rush's victims. On 2 December 2016, Brother Rush was jailed (at the age of 76) after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting seven boys (aged between 11 and 14) while they were boarders at two prominent Catholic schools in regional Victoria.

Brother Rush was charged in court under the name Michael Gerard Rush. Michael was presumably his birth name, and Brother "Gerard" was the "religious" name he adopted when he became a Marist Brother. Born on 5 February 1940, he joined the Marist Brothers as a trainee in the late 1950s. His teaching career was spent in Marist Brothers schools from the early 1960s onwards.

In those times, the Marists had several boarding schools in regional parts of Victoria, and Brother Gerard Rush worked in each of these:

  • Assumption College, a boarding school at Kilmore;
  • St Patrick's College, a boarding school in Sale; and
  • A boarding school at Wangaratta (this school was then called Champagnat College; now it is a day-school called Galen College).

Michael Gerard Rush was charged by police with multiple incidents of indecent assault of males. These charged offences were committed between 1962 and 1967 at two of the above-mentioned boarding schools: in Sale and Kilmore. If there were any victims of Rush at the Wangaratta school, they have not yet spoken to the detectives.

The police case against Michael Gerard Rush had its first mention in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in mid-2016 when the charges were officially filed (case number G11181310). The police investigation was conducted by detectives in Taskforce Sano (a sex-crimes unit) at the Victoria Police Crime Command in Spencer Street, Docklands, Melbourne.

Rush filed his "Guilty" plea at a relatively early stage of the Magistrates Court process. He pleaded guilty to nine counts of indecent assault of males, committed against seven victims.

The case then went to a judge in a higher court, the Melbourne County Court, where Rush was sentenced on 2 December 2016 to 30 months in jail, with the right to apply for release on parole after serving 18 months behind bars.

A number of other charges, including charges of "gross indecency", were withdrawn by the prosecution after Rush pleaded guilty to the more serious "indecent assault" charges.

Rush's plea of "Guilty" meant that the court hearings were relatively brief, with the victims not being required to attend court (although they had the right to attend as a spectator if they so wished).

The seven victims in this court case were not necessarily the only students who were abused by Brother Gerard Rush. These seven are merely those who eventually spoke to the detectives.

According to victims, the Marist Brothers leadership knew that there were complaints about Brother Gerard Rush but (according to victims) the Marist leadership would merely transfer Rush to a different school, thus putting more children in danger. Furthermore, the transfer could be to another boarding school, again giving him easy access to boys in the dormitories (instead of transferring him to a non-teaching office job).

At one stage, the Marist leadership "solved" the problem of Brother Gerard Rush by transferring him temporally to a Marist school in Western Australia, but later he re-appeared in Victoria where some of his victims were shocked to see him attending a Victorian inter-schools sporting event.

The Victoria Police court case against Rush is confined to offences committed in Victoria. Any offences committed in another State would have to be prosecuted in the other State.

At the time of Rush's crimes, the Marist Brothers in Australia were divided into two provinces. Brother Gerard Rush belonged to the Melbourne-based province, which provided Marist Brothers for Catholic schools in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, plus a couple of schools in the Riverina area of New South Wales. The other province, based in Sydney, catered for NSW and Queensland. Nowadays the two provinces have been combined into one Australia-wide province.

Some background from Broken Rites

Broken Rites first heard about Brother Michael "Gerard" Rush in 1995, in a phone call from a woman in northern Victoria whose son had been abused by Brother Gerard Rush as a boarder, aged 13, at Assumption College, Kilmore. The abuse occurred on 20 November 1967, at night, in a dormitory, after "lights-out". The victim's classmates knew about it immediately and soon the whole school heard about it.

This victim's mother told Broken Rites in 1995: "I complained to the head Marist Brother at Assumption College, who said they would get rid of Brother Gerard Rush. But Rush was retained as a Marist Brother and was not kicked out of the Order. He was merely transferred to other Marist schools. We continued to encounter him at inter-school sports events."

By the mid-1990s, when Rush's victims were aged in their forties (perhaps with children of their own), some were speaking angrily about their damaged lives. By then, the Marists had been forced to confine Brother Rush (aged in his mid-fifties) to the Marists' headquarters in Parkville, in inner-Melbourne.

Broken Rites does not have a full list of the schools where Brother Gerard Rush worked. One of his schools is believed to be Marcellin College, Bulleen, in Melbourne's north-east.

Broken Rites is doing further research about how the Marists handled the whole career of Brother Michael "Gerard" Rush.

Further reading

To see a Broken Rites article about another Marist Brother (named Brother "Bertinus") at Assumption College in Kilmore, Victoria), click HERE.