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Brief History of SNAP in Australia

To write a substantive history of SNAP in Australia is a task which at this point is impossible to achieve.  Essentially the reasons for this are, nothing has been written previously that I can find in the SNAP files to hand, following my SNAP Leader Australia appointment in 2020.  The following outline presents some facts about those brave and articulate survivors who formed the nucleus of SNAP Australia from approx. 2009.  In due course as more information is gleaned from reliable sources, we will be able to put more ‘meat’ on the bones in this narrative. 

 

In 1988, Barbara Blaine founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (SNAP) the world’s oldest and largest self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse. The first support group meetings of SNAP were held in a homeless shelter that Blaine ran in south Chicago USA. Through word of mouth and small advertisements, SNAP grew into a national outreach, educational and advocacy organization. Barbara Blaine went on to hold degrees in Law, Social Work and Theology.  Today, SNAP has more than 25,000 members in a number of countries, with the organisation run by volunteer leaders, and a small professional staff situated in the USA.  The current CEO is Zach Hiner.

Barbara Blaine paid an enthusiastic and pivotal visit to Australia in 2012. During which time she met many survivors and encouraged the current SNAP leaders working to raise awareness of clergy sexual abuse of children in Australia.  At a very young age, Barbara unfortunately passed away suddenly in 2017, but SNAP lives on stronger than ever. 

Mention must be made of some individuals who played a vital part in SNAP Australia from early days.  It is understood that David Jeffreys first contacted SNAP in 2009, and this may be considered the genesis of SNAP Australia.  People from throughout Australia such as Nicky Davis who presented at the Victorian enquiry and the Australian Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse in Institutions.  In 2014, Nicky and Barbara Blaine also presented a report to the  International Human Rights Commission suggesting that Child sexual abuse should be considered as torture.  Marco Fabro, a co-leader with Nicky Davis, were unofficial SNAP Leaders, and Marko was the only person who took on a formal Leader’s role at that time.  In reviewing the files, it appears much of the work n the early days was achieved by this team of two in association with others, such as Ian Lawther, Michael Scull, two of the 6 survivors who met in Adelaide to get SNAP Australia started.  Hopefully in due course we will have the names of those other four founding members.  Chrissie Foster, Peter Fox, and Stephen Woods, Sylvia Blayse, Aletha Bayse , and Aletha’s father Lewis Blayse  who fought for decades to bring the Salvation Army to account for his abuse.  Jack Curl, Richie Scutt, Judy Courtin, and John Ellis now both solicitors continuing the fight against child sexual abuse, and meaningful redress for survivors.  Mention must also be made of David Shoebridge a current NSW politician, who remains a staunch supporter of survivors and victims of  sexual abuse in faith based institutions.

 

Well deserved credit must be given to Steven Spaner from the USA who continued in a SNAP Australia leadership role from those early days from when SNAP Australia was formed, through until the present time.  Steve has diligently maintained the SNAP Australia website upon which this website is based.  A truly remarkably well planned, and reliable resource.  This was achieved from his own pocket as a donation to the efforts of SNAP in Australia.  Steven visited Australia on at least one occasion.  His legacy remains, and Steven’s support continues.  He also has many friends among the Australian survivor community and can be contacted through the SNAP Australia Facebook Page. The embers of SNAP  Australia never cooled thanks to Steven.

 

Without the work and dedication of these abovementioned survivors and advocates, SNAP Australia and the successes made to bring justice, healing, and some form of closure to survivors would have been very difficult, if not impossible.

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