Central Victorian man joins push to strip priest of OAM

ACTION: John Frederiksen wants to see justice served. Picture: Peter Weaving
ACTION: John Frederiksen wants to see justice served. Picture: Peter Weaving

A CENTRAL Victorian man is one of four alleged victims calling for a Catholic priest charged with serious sex offences to be stripped of his Order of Australia medal.

John Frederiksen was just 14 when he says he was sexually assaulted by Father Hugh Edward Murray, a teacher at St Vincent’s College – a now defunct boarding school – in Bendigo.

Mr Frederiksen said he had gone to Father Murray to confess some “impure thoughts” and had been told to meet his teacher in an empty science classroom later that day.

In the classroom, he said Father Murray asked him to expose his penis, then talked about masturbation and asked Mr Frederiksen to show him what he did.

“His modus operandi was wanting us to masturbate in front him, which is pretty sick,” he said.

“It was real predator-type stuff.”

Mr Frederiksen said the assault caused him to doubt himself and his sexuality.

“You have obsessive thoughts like ‘what an idiot was I that I let myself be involved in his filthy, dirty acts’,” he said.

But Mr Frederiksen considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Now happily married and living on a winery just out of Glenhope, he has learnt to let go of the past, but he has stories of others who have fared much, much worse.

“There has been a trail of destruction since he started working at St Vincent’s in Bendigo in the late 50s and early 60s,” he said.

“Some people still haven’t been able to move on from it, it still badly affects them.”

In 2009, Father Murray was charged with multiple counts of indecent assault relating to claims from several men that the priest molested them as boys in Bendigo, Bathurst and Sydney.

His arrest was carried out by Strike Force Belle, a group of detectives who investigated a series of sexual assault allegations at two schools in Bathurst.

Unfortunately for Mr Frederiksen and his fellow claimants, in 2010 a court found Father Murray, now aged in his 80s, unfit for trial due to his old age and ailing health.

But Mr Frederiksen said the group were keen to seek justice in any other way they could, including petitioning the Governor-General to have Father Murray stripped of the OAM he received for his AIDS work in 1994.

“The medal is given to people who really felt highly regarded in the community, it is a prestigious award,” he said.

“We think it’s really wrong for someone of this character, a perpetrator of evil, to hold on to a medal like this.”

The group also plan to write to Archbishop George Pell requesting that Father Murray be excommunicated from the church.

“If we can’t get any legal justice, we want something else to be done,” Mr Frederiksen said.

“I went to the Catholic Church for compensation. I went to a mediation session and they offered me $5000 – that’s a joke.

“I want him rubbed out as a priest but they say he is too old and he doesn’t practise anymore. That’s not good enough.

“We want to make a public stand that we are not going to accept it.”