Pell aware of child sex abuse in 1970s, Royal Commission finds

Previously redacted papers reveal Cardinal Pell knew about the abuse in 1973 and had considered measures of avoiding situations that "might provoke gossip about it".

Pell aware of child sex abuse in 1970s, Royal Commission finds

A royal commission report has found that George Pell was aware of child abuse by the clergy in the early 1970s.

Newly released information from findings made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in December 2017 show that Cardinal Pell knew about the abuse in 1973 and had considered measures of avoiding situations that "might provoke gossip about it".

The findings were released after the High Court last month overturned Cardinal Pell's child abuse convictions.

"We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of (Gerald) Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps," according to the report, tabled in the Senate on Thursday morning.

"The most likely reason for this, as Cardinal Pell acknowledged, was the possibility that if priests were one on one with a child then they could sexually abuse a child or at least provoke gossip about such a prospect.

"By this time (1973) child sexual abuse was on his radar, in relation to not only Monsignor (John) Day but also Ridsdale.

"We are also satisfied that by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but that he had also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it".

The former Vatican treasurer and Melbourne and Sydney archbishop was released from a Victorian prison on April 7 after the High Court overturned his five abuse convictions.

The royal commission's separate reports into the Catholic Church's response to abuse complaints and allegations in the Melbourne archdiocese and Victoria's Ballarat diocese were released in December 2017.

Both had sections blacked out to avoid prejudicing any current or future prosecutions, including the abuse case against Cardinal Pell.

The report, which contains more than 100 pages, shows Cardinal Pell was aware of children being sexually abused within the Archdiocese of Ballarat.

The findings do not relate to any abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell himself but rather his knowledge of complaints against paedophile priests and Christian Brothers.

The papers also reveal Pell knew Ridsdale was moved because he had sexually abused children and should have done more about an unstable priest in another Victorian parish.

The child abuse royal commission rejected Cardinal Pell's evidence that he was deceived and lied to by Catholic Church officials about Ridsdale and Melbourne parish priest Peter Searson.

Ridsdale is in prison after committing more than 130 offences against children as young as four between the 1960s and 1980s.

Pell has always denied knowing of any child abuse occurring in Ballarat while he worked there as a priest.

"We are satisfied that Cardinal Pell's evidence as to the reasons that the CEO deceived him was implausible," the report read.

"We do not accept that Bishop Pell was deceived, intentionally or otherwise".

Pell previously told the commission that investigating Searson was not his responsibility and said he did not have enough information to act after being handed a handed a list of complaints about Searson in 1989.

The commission found "these matters, in combination with the prior allegation of sexual misconduct, ought to have indicated to Bishop Pell that Father Searson needed to be stood down".

Searson passed away in 2009 before facing any charges against him.

Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat between 1973 and 1984, overseeing the diocese's schools and occasionally acting as an adviser to the bishop.

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BIG W prepares for first late-night shopping since pandemic began

BIG W is opening stores up to Thursday late night shopping for the first time in more than six weeks as shoppers vote with their foot and begin flooding back to shopping centres.

BIG W prepares for first late-night shopping since pandemic began

Retailer BIG W is showing one of the first signs of a retail resurgence post pandemic as it prepares to offer late-night Thursday trading for the first time in more than six weeks.

From today, BIG W outlets around the country will remain open until 9pm on Thursdays as dwindling case numbers and public health advice prompt the retailer into offering more choice for consumers.

Teresa Rendo, General Manager of Commercial at BIG W, told 9News.com.au that the extended trading hours will actually allow the retailer to have better social distancing practices.

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"We have seen an increase in customers physically visiting our store and by resuming the late night trading hours we're able to give our customers more flexibility to shop when it's convenient for them but also more importantly make social distancing even easier to maintain," said Ms Rendo.

"We've got 78 stores that have contactless drive-up, we've got contactless pick-up in every single store, we've got hand sanitising stations at the front of stores and trolley wipes as well as increased cleaning hours."

BIG W was among a few retailers who kept the doors open during the more stringent restrictions, bringing its trading hours down to 9am to 6pm to accommodate for lower foot traffic and increased cleaning time.

Ms Rendo said each store has been given a maximum number of shoppers allowed in to ensure social distancing protocols can be met even in peak periods.

"Through these busy times in the last few months we've also made sure we've maintained a reasonable number of customers who are in store at any one time because there are limits," said Ms Rendo.

"Our store greeters and security guards manage that with a one-in-one-out system once the store reaches it's maximum number of customers inside."

A potential silver lining for the retailer has been the boom in online shopping, and the radical shift to contactless transactions which many BIG W customers have encountered for the first time.

"I think there are plenty of things we'll come to find as the new normal. We're seeing our digital and online sales spike up to three times what they were last year and we believe that online shopping for many people has probably been a first time in the last six or seven weeks," said Ms Rendo.

"Pick-up and contactless pick-up I think will stay and what it has shown us as a retailer is that we really need to be agile."

Paul Zahra, CEO of the Australian Retailers Association, said the true impact of coronavirus on retailers won't be known for months.

Westfield Doncaster in Melbourne.

"It's been unquestionably tough for retailers, and the true recovery picture won't start to emerge until physical stores reopen more fully in the coming weeks," said Mr Zahra.

"We are likely to see a phased re-opening - retailers have different considerations some will open key stores and wait to open others.

"Some have cafes attached and will need to delay that area opening. Others are still negotiating with landlords."

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