The burning question

Collateral damage and the Catholic Church

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  • Published 20200203
  • ISBN: 9781925773804
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE WESTFIELD KOTARA in Newcastle is a carbon copy of shopping centres around the world, with its jumble of concrete car parks and sterile shopfronts. Three hours north of Sydney, Newcastle was Australia’s second settlement after Sydney Cove. Early convicts spoke of its brutality; later, the Catholics and Anglicans competed fiercely for the hearts and minds of settlers, with clergy from Ireland, England and France trying to make holy people out of the working classes. Decades ago, I would have seen rows of miners’ cottages surrounded by scrubby forest, the remnants of the bellowing industrial furnaces of the old BHP steel mill hanging in the air. Now, the mall dominates the landscape.

Driving into the car park, I ponder how much this place has changed. Newcastle is a vibrant city on a long, beautiful sweep of coastline. But its darker side is never far away. Like Ballarat in Victoria, it has been revealed as an epicentre of clerical abuse extending to hundreds of victims.

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About the author

Suzanne Smith

Suzanne Smith was the senior investigative reporter for Lateline on ABC TV for more than fifteen years, and the winner of six Walkley awards...

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