NEWCASTLE City Hall rang with socially distanced applause last night during the launch of The Altar Boys by Suzanne Smith, as Geoffrey Nash - brother of abuse victim Andrew Nash - read the names of 38 priests, brothers and lay Catholic staff from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle diocese he said had been convicted or acknowledged as child abusers.
COVID-19 restrictions meant just 140 people were at the concert hall for the launch.
Smith's long career at the ABC included leading Lateline's clerical abuse investigations, and a good slice of the audience had either spoken to her for the book, or were featured in it.
The book centres on two suicides: that of whistleblower priest Father Glen Walsh, and ABC journalist Steven Alward, a colleague and friend of Smith's.
Alward's life partner, Sydney writer Mark Wakely, sat quietly in the darkened hall as classical pianist Gerard Willems played some of Robert Schumann's Scenes from Childhood as a memorium.
Newcastle councillor Carole Duncan read a message from Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, before Greens MLC David Shoebridge called again for an investigation into Father Walsh's death, and read from the book.
Stephen Crittenden, long-time religious affairs reporter at the ABC before working for the Royal Commission, spoke of the "unbearable knowledge" of survivors and the "collective amnesia" that allowed institutional paedophilia to exist.
Alward's brother David spoke for the family, before the master of ceremonies, ABC Newcastle presenter Dan Cox, interviewed Smith in a session that took questions from the audience.
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