A former Sydney conversion therapy practitioner has been charged with historical child sex offence charges against a teenage boy.
Ron Charles Brookman, a Uniting Church pastor and the former director of prominent conversion therapy program Living Waters Australia, was charged with indecently assaulting a person under 16 years of age in connection with the sexual abuse of an underage boy.
Brookman, 70, who ran Living Waters Australia from 1999 until its closure in 2014, appeared in the Newtown Local Court on Tuesday. He pled not guilty to the charges after allegations that he molested the 13-year-old boy in 1989 while he was Senior Pastor of the Newtown Mission Uniting Church in Sydney, more than 30 years ago.
It was first reported to officers from Inner West Police Area Command in October 2018, prompting a historical child sex abuse investigation that culminated in Brooker’s arrest at Newtown Police Station on January 14 this year.
A spokesperson for the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and ACT has said that the Church took the “responsibility for the protection of children and vulnerable people very seriously, and has removed Brookman from all forms of ministry.”
Brookman was subsequently granted strict conditional bail and left court smiling and holding hands with his wife, Ruth Brookman.
He has been excused from appearing at the same court on March 31 when the matter will next be mentioned.
People who worked with Living Waters claimed that homosexuality was caused by sexual abuse, as well as being caused by “disgusting” television shows.
In a 2008 interview with Herald’s Good Weekend, Brookman claimed that as a Christian teen, his homosexuality was “driven inward, but it was always just under the surface.”
“When I was 26 I discovered homosexual pornography,” he said in the article. “I got married when I was 29 for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to keep up appearances as a happily married minister, but it was a very sad and dysfunctional marriage,” he said.
“It was my secret search, my constant fantasy. My deepest pain was because I stood on the premise that homosexuality is not consistent with the Bible’s teachings.”
Later, in a 2016 profile with Women’s Weekly, Brookman said that he is one of the ex-gay movement’s “success stories.” Previously leading a double life as pastor by day and a gay by night, Brookman claims that he is now so devoted to his wife that he finds sex with men “repulsive.”
An ex-leader of Living Waters, Jim Marjoram described the conversion therapy organisations’ approach as being centred around love and repression – using bible counselling and group therapy to “achieve success.”
“Living Waters’ approach was very insidious and just hooked you into something in such a way where you’re going ‘oh, this is just what I needed,” he said.
“Because it’s all centred on love, it’s incredibly damaging because it instils a deep sense of shame and guilt because you think that you’re failing.”
As well as running Australia’s most prolific practitioner of conversion therapy, Brookman was also a member of the anti-gay National Marriage Coalition and testified against same-sex marriage before the Parliament of Australia in 2012.
Brookman told Parliament in 2012 of efforts to introduce same-sex marriage, claiming that marriage equality would harm children if they’re exposed to homosexuality.
“One of the other real concerns is for children… my concern there is for young kids who are developing their sexuality to be exposed to the teaching of homosexuality,” he said.
“There is an elephant in the lounge room here from the point of view that children have got the right to make a natural progression towards heterosexuality without having these other possibilities thrown in.”
The Uniting Church has said that it will assist NSW Police with its investigations and asks anyone with information to contact the police directly.