posted on June 21, 2017 14:30
The untimely death of Anthony Foster spurned an unprecedented national outpouring of tributes. The Victorian Premier, The Hon Daniel Andrews MP hosted a State funeral in recognition of the selfless contribution Anthony made, day in and day out, to make Australia a safer place for children.
Not often in life do everyday citizens inspire a nation. Anthony Foster was one such person. He and his wife, Chrissie were steadfast and forthright champions for justice for victims of child sexual abuse for decades. It was not only what the Fosters achieved but the manner in which they went about it – with grace and dignity, driven by what is fair and right, with a voice of reason and integrity.
Chrissie and Anthony Foster did not choose to become champions for victims of child sexual abuse. The criminal acts, which shattered the sanctity of their family, their lives and those of their children mobilised them to excavate the truth. Anthony and Chrissie sought justice and redress initially for themselves but, over time, for countless others as well.
Remarkably Anthony and Chrissie’s intense personal losses never compromised their humanity. They never demanded anything more of others than they modelled themselves. And that was to treat their fellow human beings with honesty, compassion and empathy, their own behaviour often contrasting starkly with those of the powerful institutional leaders with whom they crossed swords.
Anthony did not shy away from the tough battles. He repeatedly tackled bastions of power with honour and balance. Undeterred by the trappings of authority and hierarchy he challenged the highest echelons of one of the most powerful religious institutions in the world, that of the Catholic Church, to explain how innocent children could time and again be raped and brutalised within its walls. And how the structure, culture and moral compass of the Church had steered it to protect those who perpetrated crimes against children rather than the children themselves.
Where Anthony perceived wrongs, he challenged them, regardless of who perpetrated or enabled them. And he did so because they were wrong and because his own unwavering moral compass told him so. Anthony did so not only on a national scale, but also on the global stage, including at the heart of the Catholic Church, in the Vatican itself.
Anthony’s moral outrage and focussed determination inspired many others to rise up alongside him and Chrissie. Whether it was in advocating for or informing the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into child sexual abuse or the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Anthony was at the forefront of driving change for victims, for decades.
The toll on Anthony of this fight, and of the harm done to his family, by the original perpetrator and within systems of punitive blame, obfuscation, betrayal and denial was immeasurable. Anthony gave so much of himself. Chrissie and Anthony attended countless days of Royal Commission’s public hearings, listening and hearing, supporting and comforting, understanding and learning. Anthony’s commitment was staggering, and his personal sacrifice, immense.