at The Wheeler Centre

A Matter of Trust: Writing Sexual Abuse

In 2013, Joanne McCarthy from the Newcastle Herald received a Gold Walkley Award for her reporting on the sexual abuse cover-up in the Hunter Valley Region. Accepting the award, she thanked the survivors, who had placed their trust in her as a journalist, and in their local paper. ‘People who have every reason in the world not to trust – they trusted us,’ she said.

When it comes to writing and reporting, there aren’t many subjects as sensitive or painful as that of sexual abuse. In this discussion, we’ll hear from two writers who have broached this topic in their work: McCarthy, whose investigations led to the royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse and Manny Waks, author of Who Gave You Permission?, a memoir of the abuse he suffered at the ultra-orthodox Yeshivah Centre Melbourne. Waks has worked as a victim advocate and his research culminated in a public hearing into Australian Jewish institutions at the royal commission.

Hosted by Trauma-scapes author Maria Tumarkin, the pair will discuss the processes and ramifications of this difficult but essential work: interviewing survivors and perpetrators, the challenges of trust and verification and the frustrations of institutional cover-up.

This discussion includes topics that some attendees may find confronting. Audience questions from this event will not be recorded and published.


Portrait of Maria Tumarkin

Maria Tumarkin

‘I am counting on you not to grow up into one of those sensible, strategic people who always calculate odds and risks before acting. Trust me, there are enough of them in the world already.’

According to Helen Garner, ‘Nobody can write like Maria Tumarkin’. A writer and cultural historian, Tumarkin is the author of four books of ideas: Traumascapes, Courage, Otherland and the boundary- breaking, award-winning Axiomatic. She teaches creative writing at the University of Melbourne.

Portrait of Joanne McCarthy

Joanne McCarthy

Joanne McCarthy was born and raised on the Central Coast of NSW, the eldest of 11 children. She attended Catholic and public schools and started nursing training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. She became the Gosford Star newspaper's first cadet journalist in 1980, and eventually worked for the Central Coast Express Advocate until 2002 – when she joined the Newcastle Herald.

From 2006 she started writing about child sexual abuse in institutions, primarily the Catholic Church. She won the Graham Perkin Award for Journalist of the Year in 2012, the Gold Kennedy Award for NSW Journalist of the Year in 2013, the Gold Walkley Award in 2013, and the Sir Owen Dixon Chambers Law Reporting of the Year Award in 2013 for her writing on institutional child sex and campaign for a royal commission – which contributed to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Portrait of Manny Waks

Manny Waks

Manny Waks was raised in Melbourne, the second oldest of 17 children in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. In 2011, Manny publicly disclosed his personal experiences of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community and undertook extensive work as a victim advocate, culminating in a Royal Commission public hearing into Australian Jewish institutions. He is currently CEO of Kol v’Oz, an organisation he established to address child sexual abuse in the global Jewish community. Prior to this, Manny held numerous senior leadership positions within the Australian Jewish community.



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