Anti-child abuse advocate Hetty Johnstone has certainly stirred up plenty of debate amongst the Crikey readership with her strident calls for the GG to go to jail. First, we publish the sealed section item that triggered the debate followed by Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett, Hillary Bray and some Crikey readers.

This is the original item in the sealed section which is a little on the harsh side and not entirely accurate based on everything else that follows:

As the GG controversy roles on inexorably, a few people are starting to ask questions about child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnstone, the woman leading the charge for his dismissal.

Hetty has been an activist involved in many causes over the years but Queensland’s Stateline revealed last Friday that she was the leader of the Qld Democrats in the mid-1990s & ran Cheryl’s campaign at the 1998 election. Seems there might be more to her crusade than the merely noble cause of getting justice for victims of child abuse.

SENATOR ANDREW BARTLETT RESPONDS

Calling Hetty Johnston “Cheryl’s spindoctor” is a bit of an insult to both of them. It is also so absurd and false that one might think it was generated by one of the juvenile dissidents on the ADEN network, given the repeated lack of knowledge of Democrat history and current reality displayed by this little group.

Neither the Democrats nor Hetty have tried to hide her previous Democrat linkage, but it is also clear that she now operates independently of the party and speaks on behalf of her own organisation. Of course, this doesn’t stop the Democrats from being supportive of some of her activities.

Your YourSay contributor Les may not have noticed, but Hetty has been a tireless, effective and visible campaigner in Qld against child sexual abuse for at least the last 4 years. This has been at great financial and personal cost to her. She was vocal about the Bill D’Arcy situation and repeatedly campaigned against what she believes is the inadequacy of our laws regarding identification of paedophiles. No one, including Hetty, is publicly accusing Hollingworth of child abuse. They are saying that child sexual abuse should not be swept under the carpet and that victims should be acknowledged, not silenced or ignored. To say that Hetty has been “selective” in who she attacks is a disgrace. Anyone who has remotely followed her activities and this issue over the last few years knows that she will criticise anyone without fear or favour if she believes they have failed in some way on child abuse matters.

The current controversy is not about whether Hollingworth is “essentially a good person”. It is about whether he continues to be suitable to hold his current job. The fact that some child abuse organisations feel it is inappropriate to have him as their Patron is not as good sign.

The fact that some people prefer to personally attack campaigners against child sexual abuse, particularly by making false political linkages and inferences, rather than debate such a difficult but vital issue shows there is still some way to go in getting full community acceptance of the serious nature of child sex abuse.

Senator Andrew Bartlett

Democrat Senator for Queensland and former Qld Campaign Director

HILLARY BRAY JUMPS INTO THE DEBATE

Too many people who have felt disenfranchised since witch-burning became socially unacceptable have discovered a new lease of life by climbing on board the child sexual abuse bandwagon. The mix of hysteria and half-truths peddled by some activists – not to mention bizarre episodes such as Franca Arena’s improv take on The Crucible – seriously damage the credibility of the lobby.

There are a few questions that need to be put to Hetty Johnstone, paedophilia activist and one of the key pursuers of Governor General Peter Hollingworth, too.

Johnstone used to work for the organisation Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse. ASCA instituted White Balloon Day, and activists have said white balloons will be used as symbols in protests against the GG during Brenda’s visit.

Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse has these words on its website:

“What about our memories?

– Some people are constantly aware day & night/ tortured by memories, the pain, the confusion & aloneness they felt. Some plagued by constant nightmares. Some people in adulthood begin to get an inkling that something happened in their childhood because of e.g. panic attacks for no reason; body feelings which don’t make sense; fears that don’t make sense, or in my case, constant pain in their body with no explanation as to why, etc.

– Some recall all the feeling, but not the events.

– Some recall the events but have no feelings at all.

– Others have no memory until an event (e.g. deep depression) suddenly triggers off a memory. – For most, memories come gradually bit by bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.”

This sounds to Hillary just like the discredited repressed memory syndrome.

Does Johnstone support this?

The ASCA website also claims that one in four girls and one in eight boys are abused. Johnstone repeats this claim in her own newsletter (available from her website) and says that 150,000 children under the age of 17 in Queensland have been abused, along with 420,000 over 18. This makes the total number of abused people in Queensland 670,000, which is approaching the size of the entire population of Brisbane.

Has there been just a teeny-weeny bit of exaggeration here?

– Ends –

Now here’s a response from Dems Senator Andrew Bartlett to some comments from our sealed section of Wednesday, 27 February and a “Yoursay” piece from Sole Subscriber Les.

Dear Stephen

I’ve been forwarded more material from your sealed section today which I believe again needs correction (no not the laughable nonsense from the ADEN “Network”. I’d be writing in every day if I had to correct the regular fantasies from those kiddies. To save time, it would be easier for your readers to just assume everything from this permanently anonymous source is wrong.) However, there is also serious material which you have published regarding Hetty Johnston which again is incorrect. I don’t want to be seen as public defender for Hetty as she can well and truly defend herself, but I think material published needs to be accurate. One of your anonymous contributors has published something which is plainly false.

Firstly, Hetty has never run as a Democrat in the state seat of Springwood (easily verifiable and on the public record). When she ran for this seat as independent candidate last year, she gained nearly 21%, outpolling both Liberal and National candidates.

More seriously, your contributor’s account of Hetty at a rally is seriously flawed. It is a matter of public record that Hetty’s daughter was abused by a grandparent (who has subsequently been convicted), not, as was claimed, a previous husband/de facto. Quite why your contributor finds it amusing that Hetty strongly opposes child abuse is beyond me, but it is not surprising that someone should become a crusader against child abuse after a personal experience like this.

Another contributor, Malcolm, draws links with Cheryl Kernot’s relationship with a former student and the fact that Hetty worked for Cheryl. Without commenting on the incident, I would be very surprised if Hetty was aware of it during the fairly brief period when she worked for Cheryl. I worked with and for Cheryl for over 7 years and I was never aware of it until it was fed to the media by the Liberals following her defection to the ALP.

Regards

Andrew Bartlett

(P.S. I’d appreciate it if you could put the part of my response to Les from yesterday on the Your Say part of your site, as his comments were published on that publicly available section.)

– Ends

And here is the feedback published in our February 27 sealed section which caught the good senator’s eye:

HETTY JOHNSTONE: THE WOMAN GOING AFTER THE GG

Yesterday’s piece on Hetty Johnstone generated lots of reaction as follows:

Stephen, I am not sure of the veracity of your Hetty thing and think you might need to check and maybe correct it ASAP before you start a witch hunt on someone who is just a social activist.

Hetty was employed while I was there and while I have never had anything to do with the party I don’t remember her being ever being president or in charge. I think it went from Tony Walters to Andrew Bartlett in those days. Could be wrong but I don’t think so. And as for being in charge of Cheryl’s 98 election campaign, my recollection is Cheryl left the Dems in Oct 97. Her ALP election campaign was managed by a very frustrated Karen Robinson. I don’t recall Hetty’s name ever being mentioned in conjunction with the ALP.

Name Withheld

IS HETTY A SERIAL CANDIDATE?

Stephen,

I’m a Queensland subscriber of yours and read your bit in the sealed section on Hetty Johnstone with a bit of interest.

A few years ago I was doing the rounds in the same political sphere as Hetty Johnstone (albeit in different parties). Hetty has taken a tilt at no less than 2 council elections (Division 4 Logan City), 2 state elections (Springwood both times) and I vaguely remember her having a shot at the Smoking Man himself, Mr David Jull in the federal seat of Fadden.

A couple of times she’s given the incumbents a bit of a scare, but each election she’s fallen short of the mark. The last time round though, at the state election, she ran as an independent instead of a Democrat, so perhaps she had a bit of a falling out with the party after Cheryl bailed. Much more interesting though is her work with her Child Protection Society thing. I slipped along to one of her “white balloon day” rallies in King George Square a few years ago to have a bit of a look around (ok ok spy.) I was amused no end though when she took the pulpit and began to rant and rave. Hetty, full of spite, bile and brimstone, informed the crowd gathered below that she wouldn’t stand for child abuse and would fight it tooth and nail wherever it was. She then pointed out that her own daughter had been abused as a child by a previous husband/de facto. Her daughter immediately broke down in front of the entire crowd, I believe she may have even collapsed, unfortunately the crowd obscured my view.

Anon

HOW COULD HETTY WORK WITH CHERYL?

Steve I can’t believe that Hetty was involved with Kernot – this blows my mind. I have been making the point recently in regard to the GG that Cheryl Kernot was involved with one of her students – a simple case of a Teacher crossing the line, and she was more or less forgiven.

Kernot has a total blind spot on this issue – if I remember correctly she said that the guy was 18 when they moved in together and that the relationship lasted some years – what a crock! If my 18 year old son was seduced by a teacher I would be outraged. Apart from the fact that he was obviously less than 18 when they first met an 18 year old doesn’t know which way is up and a teacher is in a position of trust just like a priest.

Regards, Malcolm

Peter Fray

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