A high-profile clergy abuse survivor, gagged under new laws in Victoria, is finally able to speak out again under his real name after winning his court order with help from the #LetUsSpeak campaign.
Phil Nagle has spent the past few decades campaigning for clergy abuse survivors and was identified in the media “hundreds of times” before the Victorian laws took away his right to self-identify.
Mr Nagle is the first male survivor in Victoria to win the right to self-identify in media.
Under the new state laws – quietly introduced in February – victims can no longer speak to media under their real names, in any case where the offender has been found guilty.
The only exception is if they obtain a court order – a process which can cost thousands of dollars.
Speaking to news.com.au this morning, Mr Nagle said he “couldn’t believe” he had won the court order.
“I’m pretty excited to be able to self-identify again, it’s a very important thing,” he said. “It’s such a stupid law, I couldn’t believe it came in.”
Mr Nagle said it was often underestimated how beneficial it is to have spokespeople advocating for sexual abuse survivors – “particularly clergy abuse survivors”.
“If we didn’t talk about it back then, what was going on in the Catholic Church, it would still be going on now,” he said.
“I’m just very relieved, excited yes, but certainly relieved. To be gagged after all this time was incredible.”
Mr Nagle said other survivors of sexual abuse in Ballarat who have also been gagged under the laws, were “elated” for him after hearing the news.
“Hopefully we get some more of those other survivors over the line to self identify,” he said.
He called on the government to “get their bums into gear” and kill the law.
The #LetUsSpeak campaign, created by Nina Funnell in partnership with Marque Lawyers and news.com.au, was launched in August to petition the changes and funds are being raised to support individual victims to take their fight to court.
The campaign has so far lodged 10 applications in Victoria on behalf of ten individual survivors and has won four of those.
The four court orders belong to three women, including Ashleigh Rae Cooper and two other women who haven‘t been named yet, and Mr Nagle.
The new laws also apply to all past cases meaning that countless victims who have previously spoken to the media to push for inquiries and reforms have now lost that right.
Mr Nagle was one of those censored survivors, whose advocacy has encouraged scores of other survivors to come forward.
Mr Nagle, from Ballarat in regional Victoria, told news.com.au the laws had taken away his “basic human right”.
“I started being vocal about it in the 1990s because I wanted the abuse to stop happening to other children. I also wanted to make sure that other survivors got the help, care and support they needed,” he said in August, following the campaign announcement.
As a result of Mr Nagle revealing his identity, several of his classmates came forward and the Christian Brother responsible was found guilty of abusing multiple children.
“I realised very early on that putting a face to a name helped get the issue traction,” he said.
“I have a right to speak out openly about crimes which happened against me. I have a right to talk about institutions that covered it up. That’s critical. What gives anyone the right to take that away?”
In no other jurisdiction are survivors expected to pay for a court order to be able to self-identify in the media.
“It’s outrageous that he was ever silenced in the first place,” Ms Funnell said following the ruling.
“We know that the nature of the crime is inherently silencing and any survivor who is brave enough to want to speak out, should be entitled to do that, without having to fight through the courts for the right to use their own name. It’s vital that all survivors retain that right to control if and when they tell their story publicly.
“We still don’t know when the Victorian law will change, or what it will change to. In the meantime, we will continue to fight for these court orders.”
The four court orders were secured with the help of the #LetUsSpeak GoFundMe.
The campaign, which initially set out to raise $20,000 to support three survivors who wanted their voices back, has since raised more than $65,000.
Nina Funnell is the creator of the #LetUsSpeak campaign. Click here to donate to the GoFundMe.
This reporting was funded by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.