Abuse in Care Inquiry: Woman sexually abused by Marist Brothers as a 5yo calls apology 'a PR strategy'

A Marist Brother of the Catholic Church has made a series of startling admissions, saying leadership failed to remove abusers from active roles in the church, and allowed them to travel around the country, where they'd continue their attacks.

A leader of the brothership apologised at a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care hearing on Tuesday, but a survivor says it was nothing more than a PR strategy. 

Brother Peter Horide has spent more than 50 years as part of the Marist Brothers and his apology on Tuesday was an acknowledgement of the hurt he and his congregation had caused.

"We sincerely apologise for the abuse that was allowed to happen," he said.

He said Brothers regularly moved around the country, meaning abusers could continue to prey on victims in different locations and avoid detection. 

"To our deep regret and shame, we now realise that the system was vulnerable to exploitation by abusers," said Brother Horide. "This meant that abusers were not stopped when they should have been."

Frances Tagaloa was abused by a Marist Brother while at school as a five-year-old. It was in 2002 that she asked for an apology, but none was forthcoming.  

Asked if she thought Brother Horide's apology was genuine, Tagaloa replied: "No, not at all."

"If the Royal Commission wasn't happening, I don't think I would have an apology. And an apology to everyone is not an apology - it's a PR strategy."

She communicated with Brother Horide when she made her complaint, but says he wouldn't reveal whether her abuser had targeted others. 

"The secrecy is still going on. I still don't have the information and the answers that I was really seeking," she said.

Horide told commissioners ex-gratia payments had been made to victims on 57 occasions since the mid-1990s, but the system to approve such payments often meant there were delays. Horide said that was another failure.

Tagaloa says money was never important to her. 

"It's just wrong that someone who is sexually abused by a church priest, brother, minister, the only redress they have is to go back to that very church."