Anthony Foster's legacy for abuse victims

Christine McGinn
Anthony Foster's legacy for abuse victims

Anthony Foster's fight for justice for his family has become his legacy for all child sex abuse survivors.

Mr Foster was a rare man who, with his wife Chrissie, spent more than two decades pursuing justice for victims at enormous personal cost, his state funeral heard.

He became a tireless advocate for all child sex abuse survivors and their families after two of his daughters, Emma and Katie, were raped by one of Melbourne's worst pedophile priests Father Kevin O'Donnell.

Brian Foster and Carol Burckhardt said their brother's greatest legacy was his 21 years fighting for child abuse victims.

"His greatest achievement outside his family (was) his campaign to expose child sex abuse, cover-ups initially in the Catholic Church and later in wide areas of our community," Brian Foster said.

"This is his legacy, pursuing justice."

The Fosters spent 10 years pursuing compensation from the church over their daughters' abuse at primary school between 1988 and 1993.

Emma took drugs in an attempt to escape memories of the abuse. She died by suicide in 2008.

Katie turned to binge drinking. She was hit by a car in 1999 and requires 24-hour care.

Katie on Wednesday remembered her father as a giving, generous man, while Aimee Foster said it was a privilege to be "this rare man's daughter".

"Family was dad's sole purpose. He kept his family close and we were as thick as thieves," Aimee told the more than 1000 mourners at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

"I cannot begin to imagine how horrific knowledge of his daughters' sexual abuse broke his heart, let alone the death of his first born baby.

"My father saved my life, and I am sure others too."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Fosters had faced tragedy, betrayal and denial.

"Then remarkably the Fosters dedicated their lives to fighting on behalf of every victim. Fighting for every childhood taken and every family broken," he said.

The Fosters took on the Catholic Church in the media, at a Victorian parliamentary inquiry and during hundreds of days of child abuse royal commission hearings, including during Cardinal George Pell's Rome testimony last year.

In 2012 Mr Foster told the Victorian inquiry of the former Melbourne archbishop: "In our interactions with the now Cardinal Archbishop Pell we experienced a sociopathic lack of empathy typifying the attitude and responses of the church hierarchy."

Child abuse royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said Mr Foster left a legacy for all Australians that had already forced changes in the institutions that care for children.

"His legacy will be realised in just response for all those who were abused in an institution," Justice McClellan said.

"This must include a commitment from the Australian community that these terrible crimes should never happen again."

Mr Foster died on May 26 after a suspected stroke, aged 64.