Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy are a religious congregation of women within the Catholic Church. In 1846, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Australia.  

Neerkol Orphanage, QLD

In 1885, the Sisters of Mercy established Neerkol Orphanage (also known as Meteor Park Orphanage), situated on the banks of Neerkol Creekin Neerkol, QLD.  

The Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton was also involved with Neerkol Orphanage – the priests from the Diocese of Rockhampton attended Neerkol Orphanage to say mass for the nuns and the children.  

Children at Neerkol Orphanage were a combination of State appointed wards and also children who were voluntarily admitted by parents who were not coping looking after their children.  

Neerkol Orphanage closed in 1978 and the children were transferred to family group homes.   

History of Abuse at Neerkol Orphanage, QLD

Neerkol Orphanage has been referred to as a “…dark and disgraceful place way out in the country.”  

Abuse allegations from children living in Neerkol Orphanage started to receive public attention from the 1990s. There were many submissions made to the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (1998 to 1999) in relation to abuse at Neerkol Orphanage.  

The 2004 report of the Senate’s Forgotten Australians Inquiry provided that “Neerkol Orphanage in Rockhampton, Queensland, was mentioned in a number of submissions, very often in an unfavourable light”. 

In 2015, Neerkol Orphanage and the Sisters of Mercy were subject to great scrutiny by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. There are decades worth of history of abuse at Neerkol Orphanage. It is known that the priests raped and sodomised the children (both boys and girls) on a regular basis whilst the nuns dispensed brutal and excessive punishments onto the children.  

One survivor reported to the Royal Commission that she had been raped over 100 times during her time at Neerkol Orphanage by priest Reginal Durham who forced her to confess her “sins” and gave her absolution, starting when she was around 11 years of age. It is further reported that: 

children who ran away were publicly flogged with whips to be made as an example to other children; 

  • girls were forced to eat “ant sandwiches” under supervision to ensure compliance; 
  • altar boys were routinely raped by a priest during Latin lessons; 
  • bed-wetters had to stand with the toilet sheet draped over their heads during breakfast, or alternatively they were locked in storerooms or cupboards without food or water for up to one day; 
  • nuns used rulers to beat boys on the genitals, which they referred to as “the devil”; 
  • girls who become friendly were forced to fight each other in boxing matches; and 
  • children were referred to by their last name or number. 

The local bishops, the nuns nor the government showed any interest in taking the complaints of abuse at Neerkol Orphanage seriously. A former resident wrote a book in the 1990’s about abuse at Neerkol Orphanage, however, the bishop at the time informed the Royal Commission that he “didn’t bother to read it”. 

 We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 

Further Abuse Law information written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.  

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