I was going to write a different post. However, today I listened to the broadcast of the state funeral for Anthony Foster, and wanted to acknowledge him and his work. I never met him, but I know that our society is better because he was in the world.
Most of you have probably not heard of him, but if you have, you will know that he was a man of incredible courage and dignity.
Anthony and his wife Chrissie had three daughters, Emma, Aimee and Katie. Emma and Katie were repeatedly raped as young children by a paedophile Catholic priest. Both young women were traumatised by the abuse:
Emma Foster suffered from eating disorders, drug addition and self-harm after the abuse, and in 2008 she overdosed on medication and died at the age of 26.
Katie Foster developed problems with alcohol after her experiences, and was left with physical and mental disabilities after being hit by a drunk driver in 1999.
Anthony and Chrissie became tireless fighters for justice for victims of abuse. Their work brought about the formation of a Victorian inquiry into abuse and the federal Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This Royal Commission has uncovered grievous abuse of children in a range of institutions, especially the Catholic Church, where the coverups of paedophile priests seem to go very high up the hierarchy.
The elegies at the funeral spoke of Anthony Foster as a man who not only had the courage to overcome his own trauma and grief to fight for justice, but also gave unstinting support and friendship to abuse survivors in their fight for justice.
As his daughter, Aimee said, “We will be OK because you showed us the way. We will continue to love, laugh and share. We are thoroughly better human beings for having had you in our lives.”
And that goes for all of us.
But there has to be more. As Joanne McCarthy says:
Anthony Foster deserves a state funeral. More than that, his death requires us to honour his memory by demanding governments act on the royal commission’s recommendations.