Healing and Support for people affected by sexual abuse committed by persons associated with the Diocese

"Healing is a journey - a process, not an event." ~Survivor

Healing and Support team

The Healing and Support team at Zimmerman Services was established to provide support to those affected by sexual abuse perpetrated by members of this Diocese. This involves working with those who were abused as a child or adult, their partners, parents, siblings or children.

Healing and Support can be contacted at:

Zimmerman Services

50 Crebert Street, Mayfield

PO Box 29 Carrington NSW, 2294

P: (02) 4979 1390

E: healing.support@mn.catholic.org.au


What can Healing and Support do?

Healing and Support acts as the person's advocate both within the Diocese and in the wider community walking with the person and being there for the part of their journey they choose to share.

Every situation is unique, assumptions cannot be made about where a person might be at along their journey or about their feelings regarding what has happened to them, the offender or the Church. Each person comes to Healing and Support at a different stage and as such, the support offered needs to be tailored to meet their unique and individual needs whilst accepting that their wishes may fluctuate from time to time. The individual is supported to make their own choices and decisions about the direction they wish to take and how much involvement or participation they want from Healing and Support.

How can Healing and Support help?

Recovery from childhood trauma can take a long time and is sometimes never complete. It is therefore necessary to have access to services that are open ended where no time limit is imposed and where the support to those affected by child sexual abuse continues for as long as necessary. Healing and Support offers and open ended model of support that is there for as long as the person wants it. Because the support offered to individuals is unique and will differ from person to person, Healing and Support presents as being "atypical" from traditional services.

The brief of Healing and Support is not to investigate or to test allegations but simply to welcome, support and accept at face value, the person who presents. Some of the people who have and are working with Healing and Support have not fully disclosed their abuse and are unlikely to ever make a formal statement to Police or Church authorities. Consequently, their abuse is never likely to be investigated. The offer of support is not conditional on proof of the abuse beyond the word of the client.

Child sexual abuse has a ripple effect that can last for many years and affect those close to the individual who was abused. Disclosing abuse may provide some sense of relief for the individuals who suffered the abuse, but it may also initiate a crisis for other family members and loved ones who had been unaware of their loved one’s personal trauma. 

Other family members and loved ones may require assistance in dealing with their own reactions. Assisting family members and other supporters often means increasing their capacities and further enabling them to continue to provide support to those directly affected, which consequently enhances their recovery. To provide an effective holistic support service, it is imperative that the service offers support to those indirectly affected including parents, siblings, children and partners. This support may include facilitation of counselling, linking people into groups or one on one interaction with someone from a similar situation.


Healing and Support staff offer supported and targeted referrals to psychologists/social workers/counsellors who are registered with a professional body or are approved by the Victims Services NSW Government. 

Healing and Support staff ensure that the practitioner is experienced and/or has had training in working with adult survivors of child sexual abuse and is trauma informed. Healing and Support maintains a list of counsellors who have received positive feedback and this is continually updated.

Healing and Support staff offer individuals a choice of having a referral made on their behalf and/or making the initial appointment for them with their consent. Where there are options Healing and Support explores with the individual their preferences for a male or a female practitioner, preference of location (for example, many individuals prefer to see someone outside of the area in which they live) and the therapeutic milieu used by the psychologist/counsellor. Healing and Support staff contact the individual after their first session to ascertain if they felt comfortable with the choice of practitioner and would be willing to make subsequent appointments. If this is not the case, Healing and Support offer to explore the option of referral to another practitioner.

Support in reporting to police and attending court

Healing and Support, as per the Reporting Policy, will report any criminal matter to the relevant police and will support those pursuing their rights for justice. This can involve supporting the person in making a statement to the police if that is their choice. Healing and Support also receive a number of referrals from NSW Police, usually shortly after the individual has reported their abuse, as such Healing and Support may be involved from the beginning to the end of the criminal justice process from investigation to sentencing (if a guilty verdict is given).

The support offered can involve preparation and support for the individual and any family members in giving evidence at court, assistance in writing impact statements for sentencing hearings and liaising between the individual and the police and the Office of Public Prosecution during Court proceedings.

Groups and connecting with others

Healing and Support facilitate group work and networking with others. Some of the main effects of trauma are dis-empowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery can be promoted by empowerment and creation of new connections through which a person gains autonomy and learns to trust. Healing and Support facilitate new connections by running support groups, providing opportunities for individuals to meet other individuals or to join in established support groups. Healing and Support also offers financial assistance for individuals to attend groups run by other organisations.

  • CAN (Clergy Abused Network) is a local support group for survivors & their families & meet on a monthly basis. CAN can be contacted on 1300 722 689
  • SAMSN (Survivors & Mates Support Network) helps men coping with the effects of childhood sexual abuse with psychologist led, facilitated peer support groups. SAMSN is based in Sydney but facilitates groups in regional areas including Newcastle. Contact SAMSN at https://www.samsn.org.au by phone 02 8355 3711 Email: support@samsn.org.au

Spiritual Healing

The Healing and Support team recognises that for some abuse by Church personnel in particular may have an especially traumatic impact on spirituality deeply affecting their inherent trust of their church and fracturing their relationship with the presence of God within themselves and their lives. As with other types of healing spiritual healing is a complex and unique journey for each person. With this in mind different approaches can be developed for individual needs.

These can range from arranging meetings with the Bishop or a priest as requested; accessing resources (books and articles) on spiritual healing; organising support groups to explore how abuse of themselves or of their partner, child or sibling has impacted on their faith and/or spiritual being; facilitating attending spiritual retreats; facilitating services of healing as initiated by groups and/or arranging meetings with a spiritual director.

Other Support and Survivor Projects

As each individual’s journey to healing will be unique for some the more common forms of support may not always be their choice. For some individuals they may choose meditation, yoga or mindfulness which Healing & Support can facilitate. On occasions Healing and Support receive requests to undertake particular actions which have special symbolic significance to an individual affected by abuse.

The Healing & Support Team has been involved with facilitation & support of Lina’s Project.

The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has a well-known and shameful criminal history of child sexual abuse amongst both clergy and other church personnel.  Lina, a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of a member of clergy in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, conceived a project of atonement that was facilitated by the diocese. The Atonement: Lina’s Project was launched at a community gathering of over 500 people on Friday 15 September, 2018 at Newcastle City Hall.

The Project isn’t limited to one day. The diocese has committed to future actions to see that the story is not forgotten and our determination that it not be repeated never fades. Consultation with survivors will continue to plan a permanent memorial in a prominent place in the grounds of Sacred Heart Cathedral, September 15 will be a perpetual day of remembrance in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle diocese & we will also be working with schools within the region, particularly those that were sites of abuse, to plan events of acknowledgement.

Learn more about Lina’s Project & plans for other events at: www.linasproject.com.au  

What if I want to make a claim against the Diocese

When or if a person affected by abuse wishes to bring a claim against the Diocese or other Church entity, Healing and Support facilitates their client’s choice in doing this and continues to support the person during this time.  After a person successfully obtains a financial settlement from the Diocese there is generally an expectation that person will fund their own third party treatment costs, however ongoing support from Healing and Support remains free of charge and open ended.

The information that is shared with Healing and Support is confidential and classified as privileged in that other parts of Zimmerman Services or the wider Diocese is unable to access clients’ information without their permission.

Click here for more information about making a claim against the Diocese.

The National Redress Scheme

The National Redress Scheme provides support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.

The establishment of a National Redress Scheme was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Scheme is one way Australian governments are working to acknowledge and help people who experienced child sexual abuse.

The Scheme started on 1 July 2018, and will run for 10 years.

Now that the Scheme has launched, more information is available on the National Redress Scheme website.

For more information please call 1800 737 377

Other assistance available

There are a number of people who live in the Maitland-Newcastle area, who were abused by a member of another Catholic Diocese or religious Order. We recognise that those who were abused in a Catholic institution simply understand that they were harmed by the Catholic Church and it is the Church’s responsibility to respond, irrespective of which particular order or organisation the perpetrator belongs to.

There are also many others who were abused by other religious or non-religious institutions as well as within a family/friend context.

There are a range of services in existence that may offer support to survivors and victims of sexual abuse irrespective of where that abuse occurred – in an institution or in a family context. Services described and listed in the Support for those abused by a family member, friend or stranger section are located in NSW.

Support for those abused in a Marist Institution

Marist Healing and Support Service provides a supportive response to people who have been affected by childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by personnel of the Marist Brothers.

This involves working with those who have been abused to assist them to identify their specific needs to create positive change and healing in their lives. This can also involve working with their partners, parents, siblings and children, if appropriate. A Marist healing & Support worker is based in Sydney & Newcastle & can be contacted at:

Newcastle: Merrin Dimmock T (02) 4923 0644 M 0408 515 149 E merrin.dimmock@marists.org.au (Mon, Wed & Thurs)

Sydney: Ann O’Brien T (02) 8752 8207 or (02) 9218 4000 M 0429 655 84  E ann.obrien@marists.org.au (Mon & Wed)    

If you were abused in the Newcastle Anglican Diocese

The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle also has a Survivor Support Office for those affected by childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by personnel from the Newcastle Anglican Dicese. Contact can be made at:

P: (02) 4907 5730



Support for those abused in any institution

Many Catholic institutions have some sort of support service or a professional standards office in relation to child sexual abuse matters. Contact should be made via the Diocesan offices for a Diocesan matter or the Head Office of an Order for support from the institution.

Some non-religious institutions may also have a support service or a professional standards office.

An internet search should provide the relevant contact details for different institutions.

Contact can be made with police in the area in which the offences occurred. Information about local area commands & police reporting can be found at: www.police.nsw.gov.au

Support can be sought from Sexual Assault Centres in NSW at: www.health.nsw.gov.au/sexualassault   

Or Victims Services Lawlink NSW: www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/sexualassault

Support for those abused by a family member, friend or stranger

Sexual assault is a criminal offence and its impact can be devastating. To assist and support you there are many services available.

If it is an emergency or recent assault phone 000 or report to your local police station

The Victims Access Line (1800 633 063) can provide information, referral and support.

If you are a victim of sexual assault there are many services you can contact depending on your needs to report the crime and to seek counselling and support.

  • NSW Health - Sexual Assault Centres P: 1800 424 017
  • Victim's Services NSW
  • Lifeline P: 13 11 14
  • Blue Knot Foundation P: 1300 657 380 - Blue Knot Foundation provides specialist phone counselling, support, education, resources, training and supervision to help adults traumatised as children to recover.
  • 1800RESPECT P: 1800 737 732 - 1800RESPECT provides 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling, information and referral for anyone in Australia who has experienced or been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence.
  • Clan P: 1800 008 774 E: support@clan.org.au- Clan provides support and advocacy for people who grew up in Australian orphanages, children's homes and in foster care and their families. Counselling and case management available. Support provided to engage the Royal Commission including preparation of written submissions and support attending both private and public hearings.
  • Men's Line P: 1300 78 99 78 - Men's Line provides national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns.
  • Suicide Callback Services P: 1300 659 467 - Suicide Call Back Service provides counselling for people aged 18-years and over who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal or people bereaved by suicide.