Anthony Foster Condolence

MR DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (By leave) — Anthony Foster was an incredible person — a father and a husband who stood up and spoke up about child abuse and the Catholic Church. Together with Chrissie, they took on the powerful forces of the church with a humility and dignity that is uncommon. They stood up for their daughters, but by those actions they also stood up for all child sexual abuse victims, their families and all decent people. When I reflect on Anthony and Chrissie Foster, as has been said, I think of that well-known line: all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Chrissie and Anthony Foster are good people, but they did something — something that changed everything.

Anthony Foster was a good man. As the Premier often says in this place, the greatest asset we have as Victorians is our people. Anthony was one of our greatest assets. Leadership is not about positions or titles; we know too many examples of people with titles and positions who are not leaders and worse still who abrogate their responsibilities. Chrissie and Anthony were not asked to be the champions of change and justice within the church and within the corridors of power of our nation — no-one expected that of them after all they had been through as parents to three beautiful children — but that is exactly what they became.

I will never know the pain, the loneliness and gut-wrenching heartache that Anthony and Chrissie went through and Chrissie still goes through. There are many in this place who know a lot more about this pain, and I would like to acknowledge my predecessor Ann Barker and the member for Box Hill for their leadership and understanding of the torment the Fosters went through.

At the suggestion of Ann I read the book Hell on the Way to Heaven, written by Chrissie Foster and Paul Kennedy, about the family and their search for justice. I have not read a more powerful and heart-rending book in my life. I have heard the expression people use about books being page-turners, but with this book I literally could barely bring myself to turn each page. I found myself sighing deeply after each page. I found myself having to put the book aside for a little bit before picking it up again. And I was just reading it; I was not living it. No-one should go through this — no-one.

The book brought into remarkable focus for me just what incredible people the Fosters are. I knew Katie Foster when she was a customer at my cafe in Oakleigh over 12 years ago, but after reading the book I could not look at the Fosters in the same way. When I would see Anthony, Chrissie or Katie in Oakleigh, I was in awe of their bravery, their courage and their superhuman strength. I did not know Anthony well, but on the occasions I met him I felt exactly what Paul Kennedy said his initial impression was of Chrissie and Anthony — that they had extraordinary grace. I am so very, very proud of the leadership shown by both of them.

Most of us in this place choose politics because we want to make change. Anthony Foster made change without an office or a title. He made lasting change. He made profound change. He knocked on the doors of power in the Catholic Church and in the Victorian and national parliaments so graciously, so persistently and with the quiet dignity and power that rests in every authentic, decent person. He knocked on the doors of power until they had no choice but to open the doors and face this brave, brave man — this leader.

To Chrissie, Katie, Aimee and the rest of the family I offer my deepest condolences on behalf of the Oakleigh community.