Podcast Show Notes
Anne Hill was part of migrant family newly arrived in New Zealand in the early 1960s. They were looking forward to a joyous start in God’s Own Country. Instead, they had the extreme misfortune to encounter an appalling sexual predator, the Dominican priest, Father Michael Shirres who groomed the family and, once ensconced and trusted, immediately abused Anne and her sister.
She was four years old.
This man was known to be a danger to children from the mid -1960s and yet was never stopped by the Dominican order.
On the contrary, he mastered Te Reo (Māori) and went on to a stellar and celebrated academic career as an expert in Māori spirituality, all the time predating mercilessly on children entrusted to be in his orbit.
After complaints against him in 1993, Shirres was put into the SAFE programme but never faced a day in court for his abuse and died a free man in 1997.
Anne’s father tried desperately to get justice for his daughter in the 1990s, even standing up in St Benedict’s Church in Eden Terrace, Auckland to out him, only to be dismissed as a mad man and to be broken in the land he had migrated to for a new, safe life.
In the mid- 2000s despite full knowledge Shirres was a child molester and after a personal interview with Anne, the Dominican, Father Kevin Toomey, a St Kevin’s College Oamaru product, editor of the Catholic Magazine Tui Motu, described Shirres in glowing terms, as a modern day Thomas Aquinas. It seems a mastery of Te Reo and claims of theological insight trump the sexual abuse of a four- year old child.
In July 2018, Anne exposed this man for what he was in a devastating series of articles by the journalist. Mick Hall in the New Zealand Herald.
The fallen father: Paedophile Catholic priest Michael Shirres ‘abused children for decades’:
The fallen father: Safe Network calls for end to secrecy over institutional sex abuse:
Family of paedophile Catholic priest Michael Shirres ‘absolutely shocked’ by revelation:
The fallen father: Church sex abuse in NZ ‘still not exposed’ – expert:
These articles, were followed by an equally damning article in August of 2018.
Catholic church knew of abuse claims against paedophile priest Michael Shirres for 28 years:
In October 2019, at the first Contextual Hearing of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, Anne encountered the newly appointed member of The Organising Committee -Te Rōpū Tautoko in Te Reo- the interface body appointed by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregational Heads of Religious Orders. This lady told Anne, Shirres was healing himself by his sexual behaviour with females. Healing himself with a four- year- old it seems.
Therefore, despite assurances things have changed since 1966, it seems clear nothing really has.
Anne has not succeeded at this point to have the mana of her predator diminished and has instead been seen as the problem not the solution.
This podcast is a further attempt to address this harrowing injustice.
It is the powerful, eloquent, unrehearsed and unapologetic voice of a warrior, still standing, despite everything.
Listen and Learn.
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About The Guest
“How can this little country, that is so self-assured and smug, have allowed this kind of mutilation of children to go unrecognised”
Anne Hill autobiographical notes
“I was born in London in 1962.
My father was an Irish orphan and my mother a Burmese- French -Filipina refugee. I am a New Zealand Citizen. We came to New Zealand for a life away from the British class system and growing racial tensions.
I have extraordinary kind sisters, three good adult children, a dog, and a cat. I have a handful of amazing friends.
Michael Shirres, the sex offender, was entrenched in my childhood from the age of four. On bad days I feel he has become part of my DNA.
I started school with the Sisters of Mercy in Howick, while living at their orphanage, Star of the Sea. They gave me shelter, food and a bed. I am at peace with their efforts to kill head lice, partially wash us a couple of times a week and send for a doctor when my sister was wracked with Asthma. I remember some of them with a kind of mutated fondness and others with fear. Sister Fabian was a good woman. Some of them were cruel and I do not forgive the ones who hit my sister and drove her to run away and leave me for a few tortuous days.
Forgiving does not heal PTSD. Truly. Nor does medication nor education. Nor does hate.
I attended Aorere College [Papatoetoe, Auckland], where staff looked the other way as I became totally under the influence of the Art teacher, whom I married. I went to Auckland Teachers college imagining a career in Primary education. Bill Trussell, and Dr Alcorn saved me from my own foolishness and helped me shift to Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland.
It was to be a sanctuary, until, to my horror, Shirres arrived at the art school to address an Oceanic studies class [1982 0r 1983. Shirres was at historic Newman Hall, Waterloo Quadrant, home then of the Auckland Catholic Tertiary Chaplaincy]. He had morphed himself into Maori spirituality expert.
I trained as a Secondary Art teacher. I taught at Seddon, which is now Western Springs College. The students were a link to optimism and hope. Painting and poetry, parenting and imagining myself growing to be ‘whole’ formed a scaffold for a time. I pushed myself too hard, and in the 1990s, after coming to Pompallier College, a co-ed Catholic Secondary school I recognised the severity of the trauma I live with and slowly withdrew from my active art and professional life.
I spoke up about abuse in the Church. It made no difference at all. I did enjoy exhibiting, and working with young people who loved the arts, but in the end, anxiety, depression, and the cruel clarity of recognising the presence of evil around me, led me to withdraw more and more.
My physical and mental health were compromised. I kept trying and sometimes I put effort into seeking justice and a better level of understanding for survivors of sexual abuse.
Sometimes I wish I had just shut my mouth.
I have no great expectations for change. I like to think we can shift people, slowly, one at a time, to love and value children and vulnerable adults.
To be fully human is to trust and love someone.
Shirres mainly destroyed my capacity to trust. My children, especially my son Jora, my sisters and friends give me hope for a future world that is kinder.
I believe children should have childhoods.
I am writing and self-publishing a book. I never seem to finish such tasks. I did a painting called “I am THE WAITING WOMAN.”
I have a master’s degree in fine arts from RMIT which I take some pride in. I am grateful to Jesus, but truly, I cannot in good conscience, at this time, suggest anyone trust his friends with their children.”
About The Host
Murray is an advocate and historian for The Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and Their Supporters and a founding member of The Reckoning NZ