Sex abuse at two Christian Brothers orphanages in Victoria -- St Augustine's and St Vincent's

  • By a Broken Rites researcher

The Catholic order of Christian Brothers has acknowledged that vulnerable homeless boys were sexually assaulted at its two former orphanages in Victoria -- St Augustine's orphanage near Geelong and St Vincent's boys' home in Cecil Street, South Melbourne.

Many sex-crimes were committed at these institutions over several generations. This article mentions four offenders as examples (this is not a complete list). They are:

  • Brother Wilfred Eastmure;
  • Brother William Thomas McGee;
  • Brother Julian Hackett; and
  • Brother Donald Pascal Alford.

When Broken Rites established its Australia-wide telephone hotline in late 1993, we received numerous complaints from former residents of St Augustine's and St Vincent's orphanages, with Brother Eastmure being named as one of the worst offenders. In 1993, we advised Eastmure's complainants to contact the Victoria Police sexual offences and child abuse unit, and one of these callers eventually did so. The police began investigating Eastmure but found that he had died just a couple of years previously. Therefore, the police could no longer prosecute Eastmure. The victim, not fully knowing how to obtain justice, had left the police complaint until it was too late.

Police also found the same problem when they investigated certain other Brothers -- firstly McGee, later Hackett and finally Alford. Brother Alford, for example, died in early 2004.

The only way left for these ex-residents to obtain justice was to institute a claim for compensation from the Christian Brothers headquarters in Victoria. Civil action is a way of punishing the Christian Brothers organisation for having inflicted the offenders upon the victims; and it is also an incentive for the Catholic Church to become less tolerant of its sex-offenders. Faced with the overwhelming evidence about the sexual crimes at these two orphanages, the Christian Brothers administration in Victoria has made a small out-of-court civil settlement with various victims (the church believes that an out-of-court settlement is cheaper and less embarrassing for the church than having a damages claim heard in the Supreme Court).

1. Brother Eastmure

Brother Wilfred Eastmure's career in the Christian Brothers included placements at:

  • St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong, in 1944-45 and 1954-62;
  • St Vincent's orphanage, South Melbourne, in the early 1960s, while he was teaching at St Joseph's Catholic technical college, South Melbourne; and
  • Aquinas College (a normal suburban school) in Ringwood, in Melbourne's east, in the late 1960s.

There have been complaints about Eastmure's sex-abuse at all these institutons.

It is interesting that the Christian Brothers transferred Brother Eastmuure from work in orphanages (where sex-abuse was known to be rife) to teach in a normal suburban school -- Aquinas College in Ringwood, which was part of the education system of the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese. Aquinas College began operating in 1961 and the Christian Brothers agreed to provide Brothers to teach there. The Christian Brothers' connection with Aquinas College ended in 1977. An administrator of Aquinas College told a Brother Eastmure victim in 2002: "Unlike the situation in many other Christian Brothers schools, Aquinas College was not owned by the Christian Brothers but was rather the legal responsibility of the Parish Priests of the member parishes."

Therefore a victim of Eastmure, wanting to obtain justice for sex abuse at Aquinas College, might have to take civil action against three respondents: the Christian Brothers, the Melbourne Archdiocese and the trustees of Aquinas College.

A former pupil at Melbourne's Cathedral College has told Broken Rites in 2020 that he was abused by Brother Eastmure at Cathedral College in 1968.

2. Brother McGee

William McGee (as he was named at birth) was from a Queensland Catholic family of seven chldren. He joined the Christian Brothers at their training college in Strathfield in Sydney and received the religious alias of "Brother Thomas". Brother Thomas McGee worked at:

  • Christian Brothers' suburban schools in Lewisham and Burwood (both suburbs of Sydney);
  • St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong (in 1939-44 and 1951-54);
  • Christian Brothers' orphanages in Bindoon and Castedare in Western Australia in the 1940s;
  • St Vincent's boys home, South Melbourne; and
  • St Vincent's hostel, South Melbourne.

In his final years, McGee worked with the Christian Brothers in Papua New Guinea, which would be a cause for concern.


3. Brother Hackett

Brother Vincent Julian Hackett, worked at St Augustine's orphanage, Geelong, in 1957-59 and was the superintendent there in 1967-69.

4. Brother Pascal Alford

After an initial appointment at the Christian Brothers school at Bundoora in Melbourne, Brother Pascal Alford worked at St Augustine's orphanage from 1970 to 1978. See a separate article about Paschal Alford HERE.