An Australian lawyer is searching for Kiwi victims of serial paedophile Catholic priest Father Denis McAlinden.

Alyce Johnson of Canberra-based lawyers Ken Cush and Associates advertised in the Herald on Sunday seeking evidence about Irish-born McAlinden, who was a priest at Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne, between March and December 1984.

Bishop Michael Malone of McAlinden's home diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in Australia apologised for "the distress and lifelong impact of Father McAlinden's actions on all those affected" in 2007, two years after McAlinden died in Western Australia in 2005.

Hamilton's Bishop Denis Browne wrote an open letter to Gisborne parishioners in 2008 confirming that, during his time at Tokomaru Bay, McAlinden "was guilty of sexual offences that have left at least one victim still suffering after a passage of 25 years".

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That victim, who was a young girl at the time of the abuse, was paid compensation by the church in Australia.

Johnson said she needed evidence from any of McAlinden's victims to support another claim for compensation by a woman who was abused by McAlinden in New South Wales.

She said any Kiwi victim who was abused by McAlinden could also seek compensation through the Australian courts.

"Denis McAlinden was a member of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, he was on loan to New Zealand, so technically the Maitland-Newcastle diocese is still responsible," she said.

"If they [NZ victims] want to talk to us, we are more than happy to talk to them."

McAlinden is believed to have abused numerous victims, mostly young girls. Maureen O'Hearn, the Maitland-Newcastle diocese co-ordinator for healing and support, told a commission of inquiry in 2013 that she had dealt with around 28 of his victims.

The commission found that McAlinden "had a history of sexually abusing
children during five decades".

"The earliest reported incident of sexual abuse by him was in 1949 and the latest in 1996," the commission said.

"Given his prolific offending, it is readily conceivable that the total number of
McAlinden's victims is more than 100."

The commission said successive bishops and other officials in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese were aware of McAlinden's abuses since at least 1954 but failed to report his actions to police until 1999.

"The evidence reveals a disturbing story of repeated inaction and failure on the part of church officials to report McAlinden to police," the commission said.

• Alyce Johnson can be contacted at: alyce.johnson@kencush.com.au