An emotional farewell for child sex abuse victims’ advocate

Anthony Foster has been farewelled as a passionate campaigner who helped survivors of sexual abuse deal with their grief, and a dedicated father who loved his children and grandchildren dearly.

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His efforts contributed materially to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

Mr Foster began campaigning against child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church after learning two of his daughters were sexually abused by their priest.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews offered the family a state funeral, saying Anthony and Chrissie Foster helped transform victims and give them a voice.

“The Fosters were fighting for every childhood that had been taken and for every family that had been broken. While perpetrators and their protectors continued to deny and hide, the Fosters defied that culture of silence. Anthony and Chrissy shone a powerful light on one of our darkest chapters.”

Ann Barker, former MP for Oakleigh, also spoke at the memorial.

Ms Barker took the Fosters’ book “Hell on the way to Heaven” to the state parliament, and called for an inquiry into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

“Anthony and Chrissie fought hard and long for their daughters and their family and they continued to fight for full justice. They saw systems that failed in so many ways, that put up barriers at every opportunity, and covered up crimes against children. They didn’t step back from those many victims and survivors, they stepped forward.”

Although Mr Foster became a high-profile advocate for victims of sexual abuse, he was remembered at the service as a devoted family man.

His brother, Brian Foster, told those attending how proud he was of his brother.

“Anthony’s greatest achievement, outside his family, became his campaign to expose child sex abuse and cover-ups, initially in the catholic church and later in wider areas of the community. To this he dedicated the final 21 years of his life. This is his legacy. In pursuing justice, the personal costs to Anthony and Chrissie have been enormous. Dear brother, we are immensely proud of you, rest in peace.”

Anthony Foster’s mission for justice started when he found out two of his daughters, Emma and Katie, were sexually abused by Father Kevin O’Donnell at their Melbourne primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Emma took her life in 2008 and Katie was hit by a car in 1999, leaving her with brain damage and in need of 24-hour care.

Katie spoke at the memorial and thanked her dad.

“Hey dad, thanks for always making me feel special. You were so smart, wise and giving, and a generous man. Love always, Katie.”

Mr Foster’s other daughter, Amy, also spoke.

“Throughout unthinkable loss and grief, his spirit never ceased to blossom, how can one man be so strong. Despite all, he kept on keeping on, he never turned to vices designed to numb, nor to rage or blame, instead he took his pain and turned it inside out and clutched tightly to empathy and justice. Regardless, his untimely death points to all that he endured. I am so fortunate to have been this rare man’s daughter, what a privileged life I have lived. You can rest in peace now dear dad, we will be okay because you have showed us the way.”