Father Mick Hayes was heralded for his tireless work in social justice for indigenous people but has now been accused for a second time of child sexual assault.
Father Mick Hayes was heralded for his tireless work in social justice for indigenous people but has now been accused for a second time of child sexual assault.

Respected Rockhampton priest accused of child rape

AN EXPLOSIVE tell-all book, released this week, has painted a dark picture of one of Rockhampton's most-loved priests.

Father Mick Hayes devoted his priesthood to fighting Aboriginal injustice and was celebrated as a powerful advocate for Indigenous social justice.

But now, for the second time, he is accused of horrific child sex offences.

During the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, testimony was given by a woman who had lived intermittently at Neerkol Orphanage until she was 17.

 

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

She told the hearing Father Hayes had penetrated her vagina with his finger when she went to see him, upset and missing her father who had died four months earlier.

She claimed Father Hayes would frequently touch 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 Pam Williams - went to school at the Range Convent in Rockhampton.

She was six years old the first time she says she was raped in 1964.

 

Tjanara Goreng Goreng, then called Pamela Williams, with her older sister in 1965, the year after she was first raped by a Catholic priest.
Tjanara Goreng Goreng, then called Pamela Williams, in 1965 a year after she was first raped at 6-years-old.

Her father had left her at the Rockhampton Presbytery with Father Hayes, who she knew well.

But after giving her lemonade, she said he took her upstairs and left her with another priest, Grove Johnson, who hypnotised and raped her.

At 11-years-old, and already suffering years of abuse, she says the two men raped her one after the other.

After years of therapy and healing, Ms Goreng Goreng is no longer angry and is able to separate the abuse to acknowledge Mick Hayes' work.

"He did amazing things for Aboriginal people," she said.

"He brought the idea of Aboriginal rights to the forefront of the Catholic church as a social justice issue, when no-one cared.

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

There is little doubt about Mick Hayes commitment to Aboriginal people.

He was a "happy, big, vibrant man" who was able to bring people on board.

When he died in 2011, hundreds attended his funeral and on his 25th anniversary of becoming a priest, almost the whole town of Theodore turned out to see him.

 

Hundreds of people gathered to farewell Father Mick Hayes when he died in 2011.
INDIGENOUS RIGHTS ADVOCATE: Hundreds of people gathered to farewell Father Mick Hayes when he died in 2011. Chris Ison

But, Ms Goreng Goreng says, like most paedophiles, he had a hidden part.

"There was a shadow part and a part they gave to the public," she said.

"They would march on the streets, but behind the scenes they were abusing Aboriginal children."

A Long Way from No Go is being released on Saturday.

 

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 on September 3.

Read the full story in The Weekend Bulletin and online Saturday.

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.