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Why does this man still have his OAM?

I am writing to bring to your attention a matter regarding the awarding of OAMs. Given the recent controversy regarding Bettina Arndt, I am sure that people would be horrified to learn that a convicted paedophile serving an 8-year sentence, still holds an OAM.

Graeme Russell Lawrence, former Anglican Dean of Newcastle, was defrocked by the Anglican Church in 2012 for sexual misconduct with a child. Further, he was convicted and sentenced to 8 years in prison in 2019 for the rape of a 15 year old boy.

I have written to the Awards Secretariat, The Governor General and the Prime Minister on at least 8 occasions since 2010 in relation to this and am yet to receive any reply other than generic responses.

I have been amazed that the Governor General’ s office has responded so quickly to calls to rescind the OAM of Arndt, yet steadfastly refuses to even consider revoking the OAM of a convicted paedophile.

After Lawrence’s conviction, Newcastle Council immediately revoked Freeman of the City and Citizen of the Year Awards that Lawrence held, yet the Governor General’s office refuses to act on this.

My name is Steven Smith. I was raped hundreds of times by an Anglican Priest while I was aged 10-14. I have fought for decades to bring offenders to justice.

I appeared as a survivor witness in Case Study 42 of the Child Abuse Royal Commission and was invited to appear to address the Commissioners as the final witness at the final hearing (CS57).

I feel that I speak for survivors from all over the country when I express my disgust at the inaction of the Governor General’s Office, the Prime Minister’s Office and The Awards Secretarial in allowing a convicted child rapist, serving a lengthy prison term, to retain an honour that should only be held by persons of the highest character.

For Lawrence to continue to hold that honour is an insult to all survivors of child sexual abuse, and an insult to all deserving holders of honours.

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  1. Ken

    Seems like the Governor General’s Office cherry picks which they want to act on. Not good enough.

  2. Clipbord

    The G-G only refers awards correspondence to a committee who do the actual work of recommendation.
    Do I recall correctly that George Pell lost his OAM, so there is certainly a precedent there?
    I am saddened that you have still been unable to gain closure after all this time.
    I won’t offer platitudes but I am firmly on your side

  3. DrakeN

    As with the UK ‘honours’ those in Australia are likewise devoid of meaning and merit other than in a few exceptional cases.

    Giving a wealthy business person an OBE “For sevices to commerce and industry” makes a mockery of the whole game – and game it is.

    Steven, I can commiserate with your suffering – especially that of being belittled and/or ignored when you complained at the time as well as the pain of seeing the perpetrators continuing to be excused and supported by the very institutions which claim moral superiority over the ‘heretics’ and ‘unfaithful’.

    Go well. Believe in yourself.

  4. Keith Davis

    Hello Steven Smith. Courage to you brother. As a fellow Survivor I have, in the past, been blessed with the opportunity to tell my story on the Australian Independent Media Network, and I am deeply supportive of the issues that you have raised in your article.

    All of us, as Survivors, are well aware that many of the perpetrators of violence against us were fully venerated and supported by their congregations and respective religious heirarchies right through the periods when they were abusing us. Many of them received all the usual societal gongs and awards.

    Once they were found out for their criminality – all of those gongs, medals, awards and rewards – should have been immediately stripped away from them.

    So power to you. I hope the OAM in question is immediately ripped away.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Governor-General Peter Cosgrove has “terminated” the entertainer’s [Rolf Harris} appointments of Officer and Member of the Order of Australia, according to the latest government gazette.

    According to the Order of Australia booklet, the Governor-General may terminate an appointment if a recipient is convicted of a crime either in Australia or overseas.

    The Governor-General can also cancel an award if, in their opinion, “the holder or the appointment or award has behaved or acted in a matter that has brought disrepute to the Order”.

    …a spokeswoman for Government House said the Council for the Order of Australia “investigates matters brought to its attention and considers each case individually”.

    “After due process, the council recommends appropriate action to the Governor-General as the Chancellor of the Order.

    “Any decision made by the Governor-General regarding the termination or cancellation of an appointment or award is on the advice of the council.”

  6. nonsibicunctis

    I fully support your actions in attempt to have this award rescinded.

    Sadly, the whole awards scheme is a nonsensical charade.

    Awards are clearly given on the basis of who you know or Being someone, the granting of an award to whom, those in power feel will give them kudos and popularity.

    Consider the number of sports personalities who have been given awards. Why? Evidently because they have had the good fortune to be talented and able to excel at playing a game in order to earn a living. I have every admiration for most of those type of recipients but don’t believe that excelling at sport deserves a national award. Nor do the so called contributions of many others who receive them, particularly politicians and business people.

    Within our community there are thousands of individuals who make massive and selfless contributions and the majority of them do so quietly, seeking no celebrity nor recompense save the good feeling they derive from being of service. Surely it is those people, if anyone, who deserve to be recognised.

    In reality, however, it seems to me that the awards are simply a continuation of the elitist and patronising gestures of the powerful and privileged. Far from recognising real community service they actually serve to continue difference and hierarchy in social structures and hence division in society.

    Currently we have the absurdity of Bettina Arndt’s award being reviewed whilst, as Ken points out, that of a child abuser seems not to bother at all those in charge of the awards.

    This appears even more starkly stupid when considered that the review of Bettina Arndt’s award has been precipitated by the hysteria of a certain type of feminist, on spurious grounds, at best. Most of these complainants and the reporters who have spread the outrage probably never even saw or attended the live interview in which the detective was supposed to have supported the perpetrator of the crime rather than the victims.

    In fact, instead of the usual, pre-scripted, opaque and cliched statements so commonly provided by the police, this detective gave a lengthy, emotional and informative address that provided the context and reality to domestic violence and the horror of this particular event.

    In no way did he condone the commission of this crime, nor was he an apologist for the perpetrator. What the simple-minded and/or over zealous and prejudiced feminists who complained did was to take one particular comment right out of context and present it as though it was in some direct way a dismissal of the serious issue of violence against women and somehow an excuse for the male perpetrator involved.

    In fact, what the detective did do was to indicate that domestic violence and the issues that contribute to it are complex. He spoke about some of the elements that contribute to violence escalating and did so in an inclusive way that considered the two sides or viewpoints that are evident in domestic violence situations. In doing so he did not in any way condone the violence. What he spoke of in terms of the male perpetrator was the possibility of him having been driven ‘too far’. It is this that was picked up and used to pillory him as though he condoned what had happened and was dismissing the distress and horrendous circumstance that women often undergo in situations of domestic conflict.

    It is totally inappropriate that this detective had to stand down and is being pilloried. Not one of the reporters present at the interview accused him of any misconduct or problematic comments within his address and nor should they have for there were none.

    I have no particular love of the police and have been unjustly victimised by them on several occasions, including being incarcerated without charge or reason and having broken no laws nor harmed anyone. I was myself a police officer, in the armed services. I have experienced having to work with officers whom, in my view, had an aggressive and poor attitude to any potential or actual offender. The call-outs that most of my colleagues and myself hated most were those to ‘domestics’ at married quarters on the bases. For the police who attended such incidents it was a no-win situation. In those case you are damned whatever you do.

    I mention my own experiences only to point out that my motivation for the stance I take in this matter is not motivated by association with the Queensland or any other police service and because I understand that there are many complexities in domestic conflicts and those situations can and do at times drive one or other or both parties, ‘too far’. That is simple fact and there is plenty of evidence to be had from mental health practitioners and studies to show how such behaviour occurs and how it can accelerate or be exacerbated. To say so is not coincident with saying that violence or murder is o.k. It is simply to point out that there is probably no easy solution and that rarely is only one side responsible for the breakdown in relationships.

    I have no particularly fond regard for Bettina Arndt’s rhetoric, either. However, in this instance her view is reasonable.

    Mob mentality, which is what has been operative in the attacks on the detective in charge of the case and on Bettina Arndt’s comments, is never valid. That authorities have chosen to immediately act on the unfair and unreasonable complaints in this case and yet have ignored or dismissed those relating to a defrocked priest paedophile shows the hypocrisy rampant among those with power and influence and does no service to the public or to the cause of preventing violence to women.

    Instead of such uninformed outbursts, what we need is rational and creative thinking that can produce ideas for action that will help to change a society that is constantly presenting poor role models, such as lauding aggression on the sports field and parsimonious hypocrisy and compassionless & deceitful decision making by our politicians, not to mention the predatory behaviour of those most respected of individuals – the clergy.

    Reason, understanding, compassion, inclusivity, equity and transparency are what we need in our society, alongside rational decision making and an end to the bombardment of stories, anecdotes and accounts of ‘romantic love’ that fill trashy novels, appallingly bad television, misnamed as ‘reality’, innumerable turgid pop songs, and the socialisation purveyed by parents, schools and peer groups.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Catholic Cardinal George Pell will be stripped of his Order of Australia after losing an appeal against his child sex abuse conviction.

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday his sympathies lay with the victims of child sexual abuse, not just today but “on every single day”.

    “My understanding is that this (appeal loss) would result in the stripping of the honours that are decided externally to the government,” Mr Morrison said.

    “That is a process that is done independently, and that course will now follow.”

    Perhaps a reminder to the PM of that promise might help?

  8. Baby Jewels

    Disgraceful. AOMs now mean very little. The one I’d like to see revoked is Campbell Newman’s. What a bad joke that is.

  9. Pingback: Why does this man still have his OAM? #auspol - News Oz

  10. Chris

    George Pell hasn’t been stripped of his Order of Australia because his High Court appeal is pending – so he may yet be exonerated.

  11. Sir_Scotchmistery

    What means less, though, in my view, is the process of naming someone as a “living national treasure”.

    In fact I’m disappointed in the extreme that Professor Ian Frazer, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, and Kylie Minogue have not ditched their “status” in this stupid program after that fat slug Clive Palmer was voted in as one in the same sentence as they were.

    I assume to them it means nothing, so they ignore it. I suppose many other recipients are reasonably good picks, but that prick just diminishes the “award” into better off forgotten that you are one.

    In terms of the AOM, which Arndt isn’t, she’s an AM, it’s as ridiculous as Abbort giving a knighthood to the consort of our “head of state”.

    It takes a stupid man to award such nonsense, a stupider one to accept it.

  12. Jexpat

    @ Chris

    Pell won’t be exonerated.

    The appeal if successful will simply state that the testimony of the victim in the case, after not having reporting for x number of years, is not enough, without other corroborating evidence, to support a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    This is not by any stretch the same thing as a finding of factual innocence.

  13. wam

    what cunctus sed non sibi said is there are situations that women so provoke a man that he must kill her. He, arndt, the detective and the boys at the pub, golf clubs (boy’s sheds??) believe that it is possible for a man to be provoked into killing his wife and children.
    In the case of hannah he is prepared for an investigation as to how much provocation this man received and then judge whether his actions were justified.

    The police may have investigated murder by a partner at least once a week for this century and has yet to declare justifiable homicide but there is always hope that there is ‘a push too far’.that gives a man reason for murder.

    The sad part is the police see women killing men and getting off by justifying the death. The make a casual observation that women lie about sexual assault and violence This gives angst to bettina’s boys.
    There are some pro-feminist men who choke at “the hysteria of a certain type of feminist, on spurious grounds, at best. and want the police to release the results of the reports of violence hannah made.
    the briefing paper by Lenny Roth and Lynsey Blayden is worth a read.
    Provocation and self-defence in intimate partner and
    homophobic homicides, Briefing Paper 3/07
    Self-defence and provocation: implications for battered women
    who kill and for homosexual victims, Briefing Paper 33/96

  14. commonsense

    This seems to be a head in the clouds response. Clearly this information was NOT included in the original application for the OAM. If additional information becomes available after the decision, it seems common sense to review the original decision. Fess up, admit a mistake was made and correct it. I am also saddened that you have still been unable to gain closure after all this time.
    I won’t offer platitudes as I cannot fathom the pain you have experienced.What I do appreciate iand admire is your patience and perseverance with this – all power to you and I am firmly on your side.

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