John Cleary paid the price for speaking out in Newcastle Anglican diocese

Unassuming: Former Newcastle Anglican registrar John Cleary. There were days when he missed the banks, while trying to blow the whistle on child sexual abuse within the church.
Unassuming: Former Newcastle Anglican registrar John Cleary. There were days when he missed the banks, while trying to blow the whistle on child sexual abuse within the church.

JOHN Cleary is the former banker who looked back fondly on his banking years while drowning in Newcastle Anglican Church's dark child sex history for more than a decade.

"There were days when I thought, 'Oh gee I miss the banks'," said the former Newcastle Anglican diocese registrar who became a whistleblower before severing ties with the church in February.

"People bag the banks for doing the wrong thing but look what the Royal Commission's shown us about what happened in churches. Is there a lot of difference?" he said as the long-awaited final report into the Hunter Anglican history was released.

Mr Cleary settled a legal case against the diocese after alleging he had been "marginalised, bullied and ostracised" by senior church officials for his stand on behalf of victims of abuse and attempts at reform.

Although it is nearly one year since he left the diocese to work at a Hunter aged care facility, Mr Cleary said the "horrific and graphic abuse of children" he discovered, exacerbated by the diocese's "cover-up culture", caused real damage.

"I don't know if I can every truly switch off from it," Mr Cleary said.

"What happened in Newcastle was at the most serious end of all the matters considered by the Royal Commission."

Mr Cleary was 33 and a Catholic when he took on the role of registrar and business manager.

"I didn't really have a faith to lose because I wasn't an Anglican. I was looking at this from a commercial background so my response was 'This is sexual misconduct and a crime'.

"Maybe I was a bit naive, but I didn't know when I took on the job that I'd be having to be the clean up man for all this. There were days when I thought I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then I'd think maybe I'm in the right place at the right time."

The Royal Commission issued summonses to Newcastle Anglican diocese only months after its first public hearings.

"I had 11 people on a research team at the peak of it, out at the university going through the church records," Mr Cleary said.

"We spent more than 1000 hours researching for the commission and sent 30,000 pages of documents down but we didn't know where it was heading. There were days when there was only a glimmer of hope that we'd get through this. It's been a long time but I'm relieved to see the final report and that proceedings are starting to happen.

"It needs to be far more than just a report and a folder of recommendations to break the back of all this. People need to be held to account."

This story The banker who missed banks while blowing the whistle on church crimes first appeared on Newcastle Herald.