The $30 billion wealth of the Australian Catholic Church has angered a survivor

Gina Swannell. Picture: ABC
Gina Swannell. Picture: ABC

A WOMAN who suffered horrific sexual abuse as a child has expressed her anger and disappointment over the need for survivors to fight for compensation despite the church being worth an estimated $30 billion in Australia. 

Gina Swannell, who as a young girl was abused by a Urana priest, had to fight the Catholic Church tooth and nail for compensation for her trauma.

Only after a ferocious mediation process did the church award her damages and offer an official apology.

Her outrage follows an investigation by Fairfax Media where it was revealed the church is among the largest non-government property owners, by value, in NSW.

​Documents provided to the Royal Commission show that the Sydney Archdiocese valued its properties at historic cost, which misrepresented the actual value. 

Ms Swannell said the figures released were no surprise to her and she was furious over the way the church has handled cases of abuse. 

“The Catholic Church tried to take my compensation because I spoke to the media about how appallingly they treated me,” she said.

“That's their form. If you come out and say something they don't like, they'll try and sue you.”

Father Brendan Lee, from the Catholic Diocese of Wagga, said although the figures would be a surprise to some, it was not necessarily readily available wealth. 

“Take the case of St Mary’s cathedral. If you were to build a shopping complex on top of there, it would be worth millions, but as a spiritual home for some people in the city and somewhere to go, it has a value to the church that it wouldn’t have to the public,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate though that the church didn't give the current price of those assets, that was disappointing.” 

The church claimed that increasing compensation payouts to victims would result in cuts to their welfare projects.

Dominic O’Connell, the Associate Professor of Political Sciences at Charles Sturt University, said although the church does extensive social welfare work, it should pay the necessary recompense to victims. 

“There are assets that could be sold, it is simply nonsensical to suggest that the church is not in a financial position to recompense where that’s owed,” he said.

Ms Swannell said she will fight for the survivors’ cause as long as is necessary. 

“I will continue to talk about this until they do the right thing,” she said.