Bishop of Grafton to apologise for abuse of Beth Heinrich by former bishop Donald Shearman

APOLOGY: Beth Heinrich on Sunday will receive an apology from the Anglican Bishop of Grafton for abuse she suffered at the hands of a former bishop. Picture: Les Smith.
APOLOGY: Beth Heinrich on Sunday will receive an apology from the Anglican Bishop of Grafton for abuse she suffered at the hands of a former bishop. Picture: Les Smith.

BETH Heinrich’s fight for recognition of the immense damage done to her life by a senior Anglican Church cleric takes another step forward on Sunday when she receives an apology from the Bishop of Grafton.

The apology for the former Wagga and Temora woman will be delivered by Bishop Sarah Macneil in Christ Church Cathedral in front of her congregation.

Ms Heinrich is driving more than 1200 kilometres in a small car from her home in north-eastern Victoria to receive the apology more than 10 years in the making.

She went public in 2005 to reveal she had been sexually abused as a 14-year-old girl in a Forbes Anglican Church hostel in the 1950s by then assistant priest and hostel warden, Donald Shearman.

Shearman rose to become the Bishop of Grafton and the pair had an on-and-off adult relationship which Ms Heinrich puts down to the cleric having an emotional hold over her as a result of the earlier abuse.

“He was the Bishop of Grafton when he was abusing me as an adult,” Ms Heinrich told The Daily Advertiser.

“He convinced me we would have a future together.”

The Governor-General at the time Ms Heinrich revealed the relationship, Peter Hollingworth – himself a former Anglican Church leader – resigned his post amid criticism for his apparent defence of Shearman’s behaviour during that adult relationship.

Ms Heinrich said she initiated Bishop Macneil’s apology.

“I have always wanted something from the Grafton diocese, but I had to get my interview with the Royal Commission (Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse) over with first,” Ms Heinrich said.

“I have never received an apology from Shearman.

“Shearman never had the integrity to apologise, so the current bishop is doing it.

“I will feel like I have taken another step, but I don’t know where it’s leading.

“It’s a demonstration to Shearman and his supporters that I deserve an apology, even if he didn’t have the guts to do it himself.

“My message to other victims of abuse is you are not guilty, it is the perpetrator who is guilty.”

Shearman, Bishop of Grafton between 1973 and 1985, resigned his holy orders in 2003 and was later defrocked by the church.