THE Sandhurst Diocese had the second highest rate of priests accused of child sexual abuse out of Australia’s 17 Catholic dioceses during a 60 year period.
Figures released from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse showed almost 15 per cent of priests who ministered in the Sandhurst Diocese between 1950 and 2010 were accused of child sexual offences.
The Sandhurst Diocese covers the area from Kerang to Mount Beauty, and includes the regional centres of Bendigo, Shepparton, Wangaratta and Wodonga.
The diocese was second only to the Diocese of Sale for the proportion of priests alleged to have sexually abused children between 1950 and 2010.
Proportionately, more priests allegedly committed offences in Sandhurst than the Ballarat Diocese, where the Royal Commission sat to hear evidence from residents and former students in 2015.
There were no incidents of alleged sexual abuse in the Sandhurst diocese after 2000, and no priests employed after 1990 were accused of any offences.
The vast majority of offending occurred in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Almost 10 per cent of the number of alleged sexual abuse cases in the diocese occurred prior to 2000, but were not reported until after that year.
A map of the parishes of the Sandhurst Diocese
The figures were compiled by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, established to co-ordinate the Catholic Church’s response to the Royal Commission.
Across Australia, more than 4500 people made claims of child sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in the last 35 years.
Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, spoke at the public hearing in Sydney on Monday.
He said the Australia-wide figures were “shocking”.
“They are tragic and they are indefensible,” Mr Sullivan said.
“Each entry in this data... represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should have cared for and protected them.
“As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame."
Overall, the report stated more than 2000 Catholic Church priests, religious brothers and sisters, and employees were alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
Catholic institutes were among the worst offenders.
More than 40 per cent of religious members of St John of God Brothers were alleged to have committed child sexual abuse, along with 22 per cent of Christian Brothers members and 20.4 per cent of Marist Brothers members.
The Sandhurst Diocese has been contacted for comment.