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Margaret Cunneen: the reason I fight to protect kids

The famous prosecutor reveals what drives her to seek justice against child sex offenders.

She’s the big-hearted, sharp-shooting, black-belt Crown prosecutor who, up until 18 months ago, was best known for her extraordinary record of putting some of Australia’s most notorious murderers, rapists and child abusers behind bars.
But Margaret Cunneen SC has had the spotlight shift onto her in a public battle with NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which accused her of attempting to pervert the course of justice following a car accident involving her son’s girlfriend.
In a candid interview published the May issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly, Margaret discusses the impact the long-running fight has had on her and her family, how it has altered her career plans - and the truth about what drives her to seek justice against child sex offenders.
She reveals it was her own experience of being sexually abused as a young girl by a neighbour that motivated her to devote much of her career to working on child sex abuse cases.
“It happened all through my early childhood,” she tells The Weekly. “I can’t remember when it started. Mum used to leave us with him when she went shopping. He was about 40 and he had spina bifida. He was incontinent and I remember he smelled of urine. I was eight when he died.”
After putting herself through law school while working full-time as a young woman, Margaret was determined to use her skills as a lawyer to ensure child abuse victims’ voices were heard.
“I knew children could keep the secret for a long time and I understood how it could happen literally under your parents’ noses and how, from that era, you had no words or confidence to report it,” she says.
In her 40-year career, Margaret has put numerous paedophiles, including Robert “Dolly” Dunn, Colin Fisk and Phillip Bell, behind bars. From 2012 to 2014, she was Commissioner of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Maitland-Newcastle area.
She’s also mother to three adult boys, a black belt in tae kwon do and married to 9th dan grand master Greg Wyllie, a martial arts teacher. She was the inspiration for ABC TV series Janet King and was depicted by actor Lisa McCune in the Channel Nine telemovie Blood Brothers.
To read more of this story, pick up a copy of the May issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly, on sale Thursday April 14.

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