Catholic Brother could have abused boys at Ararat camp: Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

Former Christian Brother Edward Dowlan in 1994. Photo: G. Ampt

Former Christian Brother Edward Dowlan in 1994. Photo: G. Ampt

A report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has detailed allegations that a former Christian Brother abused several boys at a 1970s camping trip outside Ararat.

The commission’s report, released on Wednesday, referred to documents from Catholic Church Insurance loss adjustor J.E. O’Connor.

Mr O’Connor collated evidence in 1997 on offending by former Christian Brother Ted Downlan, also known as Ted Bales.

The commission’s report detailed how “in 1973 or 1974 Brother Bernard Scott, the principal of St Paul’s Technical School in Ballarat, took Dowlan and some boys” on a camp to Mount Cole near Ararat.

“When the boys returned to school, Brother Scott heard rumours that Dowlan had ‘played funny buggers’ on the camp, the report stated. 

“He never invited Dowlan on another camp. However, the precise nature of the rumours is not known.”

The commission also quoted from a a 1997 report on Dowlan produced by Mr O’Connor.

“Brother Scott does recall taking a group of boys to Mt. Cole near Ararat for a camp; this group included boys interested in gymnastics as well as other boys, including [REDACTED],” Mr O’Connor’s report stated. 

“Brother Dowlan was at the school at that time and he accompanied the group on the camp. When the boys returned to school, Brother Scott recalled there were rumours that Brother Dowlan ‘had played funny buggers’ while on the camp.

“He could not recall what this was about, it was just something he remembered. Brother Scott made the point that Brother Dowlan was never invited to attend another of his camps.

“He is aware that [REDACTED] was a student who attended the camp, and started the rumours about Brother Dowlan.”

The commission also noted that Mr O’Connor concluded that Brother Scott was ‘a most reluctant witness’ who ‘appeared very agitated’ during the interview and that Brother Scott’s ‘reference to Brother Dowlan “playing funny buggers” on the camp to Mt. Cole suggested he may have known more than he cared to admit’.

Dowlan, who worked as a teacher and deputy headmaster at schools in the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat, was jailed in 1996 for six-and-a-half years with a four-year minimum for abusing 11 boys between 1971 and 1982. 

He was not thrown out of the Christian Brothers order until 2008.

In 2015, Dowlan pleaded guilty to 33 counts of indecently assaulting boys under the age of 16 and one count of gross indecency between 1971 and 1986 and was sentenced to a minimum of three years’ jail.

The latest commission report also accused the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat of “catastrophic institutional failure” in dealing with allegations of abuse.

The Commission also accused the Christian Brothers of having “a system without checks and balances” with “the obvious potential for mismanagement or abuse of that power and neglect of that responsibility”.

Hours after the commission’s report was published, Catholic Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird apologised for the church failing to protect children across western Victoria.

“Where the failures of my predecessors allowed abuse to occur, I offer my heartfelt apology,” Bishop Bird said.