ACT News


Ex-priest Father Brian Hassett removed from next to Canberra primary schools after accusations revealed

An ex-priest who was found to have inappropriately touched a child has been removed from a home for retired clergy next to two primary schools.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn has also moved two other priests, who had been removed from the ministry for "other reasons", from Lanigan House due to community concerns.

Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse housed former Tumut priest Father Brian Hassett at Lanigan House, next to Sts Peter and Paul Primary School and Malkara School in Garran, for two years after he had been stood down over two incidents involving children in Tumut.

While NSW police did not press charges, the claims were substantiated in an archdiocese investigation overseen by the NSW Ombudsman.

Director of the Institute for Professional Standards Matt Casey admitted Father Brian had been "the subject of sustained complaints relating to his time as parish priest of Tumut".

In a statement, Mr Casey said community pressure had forced the former priest to be moved to new accommodation.


"It is important to note that there were no concerns about Fr Hassett's behaviour during his time at Lanigan House," Mr Casey said.

"Based on recent community concern and acting on my advice, today [Thursday] the archbishop relocated two other priests from Lanigan House. Both men were removed from ministry for other matters. I reiterate that the safety of children was not compromised at any time."

A letter from Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese Catholic Education director Ross Fox to parents dated March 2 said Father Brian had been "moved to a setting that is not in proximity to children or vulnerable people".

"The safety of children in Catholic schools is of paramount importance to me and all staff of Sts Peter and Paul primary school Garran," Mr Fox wrote.

"The school was advised of the presence of Fr Brian Hassett in May 2016. At that time the assessment was that strict safety protocols in place at the school were sufficient to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of all students."

Education Minister Yvette Berry told ABC radio on Thursday afternoon moving the ex-priest from Lanigan House was "what the Canberra community would expect".

Meanwhile a prominent advocate for victims of institutional child sexual abuse believes it is untenable for the Canberra Catholic archbishop to remain in his job after he chose to place Father Brian next to the schools.

2015 ACT Local Hero and Bravehearts ambassador Damian De Marco has added his voice to Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston, who on Wednesday said Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse should resign.

"We need people in those positions that are prepared to step up," he said.

Last year, the archbishop did not attend a liturgy of lament for victims of abuse at Canberra's Marist College. The archbishop later apologised for missing the event and said he sincerely regretted it.

But Mr De Marco said Archbishop Prowse's actions spoke louder than his words.