Father Mick Hayes was heralded for his tireless work in social justice for Indigenous people but is accused of child sexual assault.
Father Mick Hayes was heralded for his tireless work in social justice for Indigenous people but is accused of child sexual assault.

Horrific child sex offences exposed in Rockhampton - Pt 2

IT WAS Rockhampton, 1969 when an 11-year-old Aboriginal girl, with Commonwealth Games' dreams, was in town from Longreach for the regional swimming championships.

After the meet, her father took her to the Catholic presbytery, a sprawling mansion with a heavy, winding staircase.

Tjanara Goreng Goreng recalls the memory in her book, A Long Way From No Go, released today.

Tjanara Goreng Goreng aged 13 in 1971.
Tjanara Goreng Goreng aged 13 in 1971.

Father Mick Hayes appeared - smiling as always...he led me up the staircase ... yanked me close in the way he always did...

"Do you know what we're here for?" he asked.

I knew well enough.

"Get on the bed."

He told me to take off my clothes. I pulled down my underpants and pulled the sheet over me...

The brushing sounds of his pants coming off. The air on my skin as he pulled the sheet from my body. Rubbing between my legs. As he climbed on top he was slobbering. I whimpered with pain but he kept going till he was done...

"Wait," he said. "Your friend is here."

Of course he was.

Father Grove Johnson reappeared every so often like a rodent...

Father Johnson was even rougher. Afterwards, he left the room. I was dead like a piece of wood. Sore. I curled into a ball and sobbed...

This is the second time Father Mick Hayes, who died in 2011, is accused of horrific child sex offences.

Reverend Dr Grove Johnson died on January 8.
Father Grove Johnson died on January 8. Contributed

During Royal Commission hearings in Rockhampton, testimony was given by a woman who had lived intermittently at Neerkol Orphanage until she was 17.

She told the hearing Father Hayes had penetrated her vagina with his finger and claimed he frequently touched the Aboriginal girls, that he put his hand up her shirt and fondled her breasts.

Now one of Australia's most powerful Indigenous academics and a former senior policy director at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has told her own shocking story of being raped, molested and groomed by three priests, Father Mick Hayes, Father Grove Johnson and Father Leo Wright, who she later helped put behind bars.

Now 60, Tjanara Goreng Goreng, then called Pamela Williams - went to high school at The Range Convent in Rockhampton.

She says she was five-years-old the first time she was raped, when she was left at the Rockhampton presbytery with Father Hayes, who she knew well.

After giving her lemonade, she says he took her upstairs and left her with Father Johnson, who hypnotised and raped her.

It took more than 50 years before Ms Goreng Goreng and (The Morning Bulletin understands) two more women made complaints to Rockhampton detectives in December 2015.

A police spokesman confirmed Rockhampton Child Protection and Investigation Unit investigated allegations against both Father Johnson and Father Hayes.

He said Father Hayes was deceased at the time complaints were made.

Father Johnson refused to answer questions when interviewed and with insufficient evidence to proceed, the investigation was "paused pending further investigation."

He died in January, 2018.

Father Frank Brennan, CEO of Catholic Social Justice in Canberra, relative of Father Johnson and lifelong friend of Father Hayes, yesterday questioned why it took Ms Goreng Goreng so long to file a complaint, especially when she had given evidence against Fr Leo Wright which helped to convict and jail him.

Father Wright was convicted of 17 counts of indecent dealing with boys and girls.

"It's funny how they don't understand how hard it is for survivors to speak," she said.

"I requested a meeting with the Bishop (Brian Heenan) in Brisbane in 1998.

"He didn't want to know names. He told me not to tell him, but to go to the police.

"I said I was going to, but I wanted to tell him first."

The answer, in part, lies in her ability to separate the work Mick Hayes did for Indigenous Australians, and the crimes that caused her so much pain.

Tjanara Goreng Goreng today
Tjanara Goreng Goreng today

"Putting aside sex abuse for the moment, he brought the idea of Aboriginal rights to the forefront of the Catholic Church as a social justice issue when no-one cared," she said.

"It was denied and hidden, but he saw it and felt it and felt he needed to do something about it.

"He did a lot of social justice work in our community and in the Filipino community too.

"Everyone loved him for it ... he was a happy, big, vibrant man and people were keen to get on board with him."

But she says, like most paedophiles he had a hidden past, a shadow part and a part given to the public; marching on the streets for Aboriginal justice concealed behind-the-scenes abuse of their children.

After many years of personal healing and a long and distinguished career, Tjanara Goreng Goreng is free from the pain and anger that once consumed her.

"Priests don't learn about love and connection," she said.

"They don't know what to do with their sexuality and it morphs into a form of dysfunction."

Ms Goreng Goreng says she intended to speak to police before Father Hayes died in 2011 but found out from the bishop that he'd had a stroke.

"I felt he would die and there was no point," she said.

"I thought, 'let him die, he'll get his karma'."

A Long Way From No Go, with Julie Szego is published by Wild Dingo Press and released on September 3.
A Long Way From No Go, with Julie Szego is published by Wild Dingo Press and released today.

The forerunner to A Long Way From No Go was started in 1995 and finished in 1998.

"But I was in the middle of therapy and not in an emotional or mental state to have it published and then have to defend it," she said.

By 2004 she felt ready to go public and entered the manuscript into the Red Earth David Unaiton Award for unpublished Aboriginal manuscripts.

It caught the attention of Cathy Lewis from Wild Dingo Press who wanted to publish the book as an autobiography.

With the help of writer Julie Szego, it was finally published and launched at the First Nations Aboriginal Conference in Canberra last Saturday.

It's not an easy read, but the reaction was strong and, for many, a release.

"People started to cry," Ms Goreng Goreng said.

"A lot of Aboriginal people can relate. A lot of people haven't spoken publicly about those events.

"The story resonates with people."

Ms Goreng Goreng learnt through her own education about recovery from violence and abuse.

It lead her to the USA where she trained as a therapist, embracing her own cultural spiritual life and eastern meditation.

With a strong Aboriginal community around her, she wanted to recover, not live as a victim.

"I didn't want to live with alcoholism, depression and emotional ill-health," she said.

"Too many friends have died or become addicts because they couldn't cope with the abuse they'd suffered.

"It is possible to recover from trauma and generational trauma. I learnt to love myself and understand there was more to my story than abuse.

"This doesn't define my life."

Victims fear they won't be believed, and men like Father Hayes and Father Johnson will never have their day in court, but the hidden victims of child-sex abuse allegations are also the Catholic communities around the world, the parishioners and clergy in the congregations of Rockhampton, Yeppoon and elsewhere.

Tjanara Goreng Goreng's motivation to write A Long Way From No Go was to let other people know it was possible to recover.

"That's the story I'd like people to know about; that's why I wrote the book."

The Catholic Church is also on its journey to recovery.

Yesterday, in its response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the church announced it would examine voluntary celibacy for some clergy and amend canon law to make child sexual abuse a canonical crime and not a 'moral failing'.

Breaking the seal of the confession in cases of child abuse was not accepted.

A Long Way From No Go (Wild Dingo Press) is out today.

www.wilddingopress.com.au or the Kern Arcade newsagency in East St will have stocks early next week.

Call 4922 2044 to reserve a copy.

Editor's note:  As noted in Ms Goreng Goreng's book, she reported to the Rockhampton police a number of allegations about Father Grove Johnson's conduct in Longreach.  While Father Johnson declined to answer questions, he did, through his legal representative, inform the police that he had never been to Longreach and denied any offending on his part. After the police conducted further investigations over a number of months, they found no evidence that Father Johnson had ever been to Longreach and they informed him that he would not be charged and that the investigation was closed.  No allegations about his conduct in Rockhampton were put to Father Johnson by police and his family deny he would have engaged in any local wrongdoing.