ACT News

Former Marist leader to testify at royal commission

Brother Alexis Turton, the former Provincial of the Marist Brothers who supported Brother Kostka Chute at his trial in 2008, is one of several senior members of the order who will give evidence at the royal commission hearing in Canberra that begins on Tuesday.

Three former students of Brother Kostka (aka William John Chute) from Marist College Canberra will also testify before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The hearings, set down for nine days, will also take evidence from former teachers from Canberra and Lismore and past and present high-ranking Catholic church and Marist Brothers officials.

Brother Alexis was the head of the Marist Brothers in 1993 when, after repeated complaints to the Marist College Canberra hierarchy from parents about sexual abuse, the decision was made to end Brother Kostka Chute's teaching career.

Chute was transferred to Sydney and no public mention was ever made of the allegations that had prompted his departure. The matter was not referred to the police.

Chute was only charged in 2008 when Canberra lawyer Jason Parkinson told clients who were considering civil action against the college they should report their experiences to the police. All of the charges dating to before 1985 had to be dropped because of the statute of limitations.


Brother Alexis, who was the order’s spokesman at the time of the Chute trial, said the Marist Brothers “apologise(s) unreservedly to those who have been hurt” in 2009.

By 2008 Brother Alexis, who accompanied Chute to court during the latter’s trial, was Marist Brothers’ “professional standards officer” and, as such, responsible for dealing with complaints of sexual abuse.

 Present Marist Provincial, Jeffrey Crowe, who will also give evidence before the royal commission, issued a strongly worded statement denying Fairfax allegations there had been a “ring of abuse” at Marist College Canberra in April, 2009.

There was “never any collusion between the abusers. The testimony of other brothers in the community in that era (the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s) is that there was not a hint of it,” he said in Catholic Voice. “As in any family, people trusted one another"

Chute is not the only Marist brother whose past conduct and the way it was handled by the order and the church is being put under the microscope this week and next.

The commission is also looking into the activities of a Marist brother identified by the code name “ZA” who was allegedly active in Catholic schools in Queensland, NSW and Canberra from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The anti-abuse website, Broken Rites Australia, said it expected revelations about a cover-up involving ZA to come to light during the commission’s visit to Canberra.

Two former students of ZA have been called to give evidence as have Denis Doherty, an ex-Marist Brother and former head teacher of an unnamed Marist Brothers’ primary school in North Queensland; John Holdsworth, the former principal of a Marist Brothers’ primary school in North Queensland; Jan O’Grady, the former assistant principal of St Carthage’s School in Lismore; and Anthony Hunt, the former superior of the Marist Brothers community in Lismore.

No staff from Canberra’s Daramalan College have yet been named as giving evidence at the hearings. 

Paul Lyons, who had also taught at Marist College Canberra, was teaching at Daramalan College when he confessed to sexually abusing a student in 2000. He took his own life after making the taped confession.

The hearings will be streamed live on the royal commission's web site.

Witnesses who have been summonsed by the royal commission are legally compelled to appear.