Lawyer who led fight against Catholic Church wins justice award

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A man who has led the fight to make the Catholic Church and other institutions accountable for the actions of its clergy and staff has been declared the winner of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) National Civil Justice Award.

Lawyer John Ellis was presented with the honour at the ALA’s national conference in Sydney last week.

ALA national president, Andrew Stone, said Ellis had shown unwavering diligence, passion, vision and resilience and had sacrificed much personally in his bid to shine light on the abuse which had been carried out by Catholic Church clergy and staff.

“It is no exaggeration to say that John Ellis has become a leader in the fight to bring the Catholic Church to justice and be made accountable for the actions of its clergy and staff,” Stone says.

“Not only was his personal litigation a catalyst that formed a crucial part in the triggering of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he continues to connect with and inspire survivors of abuse through his ongoing work as a lawyer.”

Stone said that although Mr Ellis’s personal litigation journey did not ultimately hold the Church legally accountable; it succeeded in shedding light on the legal mechanisms used by institutions to escape liability.

“At the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, John’s experiences acted as an important case study at public hearings,” he says.

“In giving evidence, John again illuminated how the response of the Catholic Church to allegations of sexual abuse has been inconsistent with its stated aims of providing ‘just and compassionate healing’ to survivors.”

Even after confronting personal adversity, Ellis continues to represents hundreds of victims who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy, working to ensure that they have the best possible chance of receiving the justice they deserve, says Stone.

“He has proven to the world at large that he will not be crushed or defined by his experiences, but instead will rise to every challenge. John Ellis is a true inspiration to advocates of justice and survivors alike.”

The ALA national conference is an annual event for lawyers, barristers and associated professionals with a social justice focus. The conference was attended by many plaintiff and defendant lawyers as well as representatives of the various regulators and insurers.

Photo: Jeremy Piper.

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