Ballarat Clergy Abuse Survivors Urge Real Change at Home
March 5, 2016
WHEN the Ballarat survivor group arrive at Melbourne Airport, there is one person they want to see waiting for them.
“In all honesty I would like to see Malcolm Turnbull waiting for us at the airport,” said David Ridsdale, who has led the group tirelessly throughout the week of Royal Commission hearings in Rome.
“I’m sorry, too long we’ve been fighting and it shouldn’t be us fixing this. It is an Australia-wide problem. It is everywhere and everybody knew.”
The Australian group have become the focus of international media throughout their time in the country and are hoping to use the attention to secure real changes at home.
|David Ridsdale gets a much needed hug from Michele and Paul Levey. Picture: Ella PellegriniSource:News Corp Australia|
“We got the ears of the world,” he said.
“We’re sick to death of being ashamed.”
The emotional week has gone a long way to healing the wounds of the past, but plenty of work is yet to be done.
Mr Ridsdale said it’s not about “handing broken men a bunch of money so they can drink themselves to death”.
He wants to secure a model for sexual abuse survivors similar to that used for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We don’t want to be the paedophile capital of the world, we want to be the recovery capital of the world,“ he said of Ballarat, whose deputy mayor has travelled with them on the journey.
|Ribbons attached to the bags of victims and survivors — the symbol of the Loud Fence movement urging people to tie a ribbon to a fence in support of child abuse victims. Picture: Ella PellegriniSource:News Corp Australia|
The group have spent their final days in the Italian capital in meetings with the Pontifical Commission on sexual abuse, and delivered a lecture to a group of priest and nuns on how to deal with the issue where they handed out ribbons — the symbol of the Loud Fence movement, the initiative that went viral with the help of social media urging people to tie a ribbon to a fence in support of child abuse victims.
But while the Ballarat survivors made steps towards repairing their relationship with Cardinal Pell through the private meeting after which he delivered a handwritten statement, there’s been no such closure for Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were abused by Catholic priest Father Kevin O’Donnell.
He’s requested a private meeting with the Cardinal in order to help him understand their tireless campaign.
Of the moment he held up a photo of his young girls to international media, Mr Foster said it was driven by raw emotion.
|Anthony and Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were abused by Catholic priest Father Kevin O’Donnell. Picture: Ella PellegriniSource:News Corp Australia|
“We’d brought those photos with us and we hadn’t looked at them all week. We really hadn’t, we’d been so busy,” he said.
“I just needed to show everyone what it really is about. We stand up here in front of the cameras and talk about all sorts of concepts and things we want. But we’re here because of those two girls, that’s why we do this. “
While he isn’t going home completely satisfied, he said the week has definitely worked as international interest has opened the case up to the world.
“We’ve actually ended up with a much better response. Cardinal Pell has done us a favour by actually not going home and allowing the Royal Commission to come here.”