A NSW priest in court on child-sex charges from the late 1990s

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 5 April 2017

Father Barry Tunks, 76, who was once the Vicar-General of the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese in New South Wales, appeared in Forster Local Court (on the NSW mid-north coast) on 5 April 2017 to face historic child-sex charges. This was a brief preliminary procedure, for the charges to be officially filed with a magistrate.

Fr Tunks was not required to make a plea at this hearing, and the magistrate adjourned the matter until the next mention on 20 June 2017 in Taree Local Court. Fr Tunls will not be required to attend the second mention if he is represented in court. Meanwhile, he is on bail.

The court case number is 2017/00089299.

Fr Tunks was arrested in Newcastle by police on 23 March 2017. At Waratah Police Station (in Newcastle), he was charged with three counts of indecent assault, allegedly committed between 1979 and 1980. The alleged victim was a boy who was aged between nine and twelve years at the time. The alleged victim is now aged in his forties.

The matter has been investigated by detectives from the Manning Great Lakes Local Area Command.

Some background about the diocese

The Catholic Church in New South Wales is divided into eleven dioceses, one of which is the Maitland-Newcastle diocese. This diocese has its headquarters in Newcastle, and it extends up the coast to include Forster and Taree. (The coastal areas north of Taree are in the Lismore diocese, which extends from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border).

According to some of the old printed editions of the annual Australian Catholic directory, Fr Barry Tunks has worked in Maitland-Newcastle Diocese parishes and has also spent time working outside the diocese. For example:

  • In the 1979 directory, he was listed in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese at the Taree parish on the NSW mid-north coast (Taree is the most northerly coastal town in this diocese).
  • In the 1988 directory, Fr Barry Tunks' address was listed as St John's College in the University of Sydney. The St John's College website says that from early 1992, until some time during 1904, "Very Rev. Barry Tunks" was the rector (the principal) of this college. During this role, Fr Tunks was listed as being "on leave" from the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, as the university college job is officially located within the Sydney diocese.
  • Some time in 1994, according to the next editions of the directory, Fr Tunks was back in parish work in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese (at Waratah in Newcastle, where he remained for many years).

While at the Waratah parish, Fr Tunks also acted for several years as the Vicar-General of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, assisting the bishop in administering the diocese. In addition, for years he acted as a hospital chaplain in Newcastle.

Fr Tunks was still serving the Maitland-Newcastle diocese until he was arrested by police on 23 March 2017