Three former residents of the St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol, Garnett Williams, Anne Ashby and John Charles, made public statements to the media to report sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the nuns, brothers and staff of the orphanage.
The last former resident of the Neerkol Orphanage, Garnett Williams, was able to report that she had been sexually abused by Sister Mary Joseph, Sister Felicity O'Brien (a nun who had been placed at the orphanage as a child) and Sister Mary Patricia (both had been residents of the orphanage during the 1960s). Sister Mary Joseph and Sister Felicity O'Brien were both nuns who had worked at the orphanage from 1953 to 1970.
The small town of Neerkol is currently in the spotlight as two former residents of the orphanage who were abused as children received $1.6 million in compensation from the Catholic church. Queensland v Cardinal Archbishop of Brisbane was decided by the Queensland Court of Appeal in 2015, finding in favour of the Catholic Church and the church was ordered to pay the victims compensation. St Joseph's Home Neerkol released a statement regarding this ruling, calling the decision a sad outcome for all parties involved and acknowledged that the church had wrongly denied the allegations.
This book, St Joseph's Home Neerkol, written by Fay Hicks in 1993, was widely publicised in the media and was first published in 1993 in the UK. The book was then made available to the Australian public in 1994 and has since been republished more than 10 times in Australia.
The book alleges that abuse occurred in the St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol over many years. Specifically, the book documented the abuse of many children by William Joseph Barrett, who was known as the 'boy killer'. Mr Barrett was jailed in 1962 for the murder of two boys. At the time he was aged 10 and a half years and was a resident of St Joseph's Orphanage at Neerkol. A subsequent police investigation found that Mr Barrett was not the sole perpetrator of the crimes. Other boys in the home during the 1950s and 1960s were also found to be involved in the abuse of the children. 827ec27edc