Slater and Gordon Lawyers urge witnesses of sexual abuse at Sisters Of Mercy Mentone to come forward

Lawyers are urging anyone who witnessed or experienced physical or sexual abuse at the Sisters of Mercy Home in Mentone, to come forward to provide information to potentially assist with civil historical abuse claims.

Slater and Gordon Abuse Lawyer Katherine Munt said the firm was investigating alleged sexual and physical abuse of children under the care of the State Government and Sisters of Mercy that occurred between the 1960s and 70s at a cottage home in Mentone.

Ms Munt said Graham Johnston, cottage father at the home in the late 1960’s, allegedly perpetrated horrific sexual abuse over several years against at least one of the young boys that he was being paid to look after. He and his wife were employed by the Sisters of Mercy to reside at the Mentone Cottage as “cottage parents”, she said.

“The Victorian man we are representing was just nine years old when he alleges the frequent sexual abuse began and resulted in devastating consequences for him throughout his life. He alleges the abuse would often occur while other boys slept in the same room,” Ms Munt said.

“These children were failed. Their health, welfare and safety were not protected by the State Government or the Sisters of Mercy. We are asking anyone who witnessed the abuse to come forward to share information which would remain confidential and would assist with potential compensation claims being pursued by survivors.

“We believe there could be potential witnesses living in Victoria or interstate. If you were abused by Johnston, other carers, or are aware of the abuse of other children please do not hesitate to reach out. We hope that pursuing these abuse cases under civil law will provide survivors of abuse with the justice they have been waiting decades to receive.”

The home was managed by the Sisters of Mercy as part of the St Vincent de Paul Children’s Home, who ran cottage homes in Mentone, Black Rock, Bentleigh and surrounding suburbs. The Sisters of Mercy were responsible for the health, welfare and safety of the child residents and for the Mentone Cottage staff.

“These children were placed in the care of guardians who were supposed to ensure they were not harmed or injured but unfortunately, the Sisters of Mercy and the State Government failed some of these children. Evidence of the abuse was not investigated or reported to police and there were no systems in place to monitor the children and ensure they were safe. Johnston took advantage of his position of power and authority knowing he was one of the only adults in their lives,” Ms Munt said.

Legislation in Victoria and other states around Australia has changed in recent years, removing time limits for abuse victim-survivors to report abuse they experienced decades ago, and bring civil legal claims against institutions and individuals.

Previous time limits discouraged and prevented victims from making claims in court. Since 2015, time limitations have been removed in Victoria, opening up claims for injuries from sexual abuse, physical abuse or psychological abuse as a result of sexual or physical abuse of a minor.

In Victoria, survivors who previously signed deeds of release may have them set aside or overturned by the court and take legal action again if the settlement they received is found to be unjust or unreasonable.

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