FORMER judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia Neville Owen is the new chair of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC).
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Denis Hart and Catholic Religious Australia chair Sisters of Charity Sister Annette Cunliffe announced the appointment on Thursday, June 5.
The TJHC is co-ordinating the Church’s engagement with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and developing the Church’s child protection and survivors’ assistance reform agenda.
Mr Owen’s appointment follows the death of the council’s inaugural chair Barry O’Keefe early last month.
A joint statement from Archbishop Hart and Sr Cunliffe said Mr Owen had a distinguished 40-year career as a judge, barrister, solicitor, advocate and reformer.
He has worked closely with many charities and educational bodies advising on governance and reform initiatives.
He is still actively involved in the community and education sectors particularly within primary and secondary schools.
He chairs the Iona Presentation College board in Western Australia and is a trustee of the University of Notre Dame Australia.
From 1991 to 2010 Mr Owen was a judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia and from 2005 an inaugural member of the Court of Appeal following its establishment as a separate division of the Supreme Court.
In April 2003 he completed the two-year Royal Commission into the collapse of the HIH Insurance group.
In July of the same year he started the three-year hearing into Alan Bond’s Bell group of companies. It was one of the nation’s longest-running and most expensive civil actions.
“Mr Owen brings to the Truth, Justice and Healing Council the skills of one of Australia’s most experienced and respected legal minds and community advocates,” the statement by Archbishop Hart and Sr Cunliffe said.
Mr Owen will join the 11-member council, which comprises predominantly lay people of mixed denominations including three who are or who have close family who are survivors of child sexual abuse within the Church.
The statement said the council’s role was to oversee the Church’s engagement with the commission, to develop new policies to protect children and young people, and to help the Church respond to any future complaints appropriately and with justice, putting the needs of survivors first.