For Abuse Survivor Rob Walsh, the Fight for Justice Doesn't End with the Royal Commission
By Danny Tran
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
December 15, 2017
|PHOTO: Rob Walsh fought back against an abusive Catholic priest when he was a boy in Ballarat. (ABC: Undeniable)|
It was an emotional day for many as the royal commission handed down its final report, in all 17 volumes, after five long years of investigation.
But for at least one survivor of child abuse, Rob Walsh, today doesn't mark the end of a long campaign for justice.
He will be travelling to the nation's capital to campaign for all of the royal commission's recommendations to be implemented.
Mr Walsh was abused as a boy in Ballarat by two of Australia's most notorious paedophiles, Gerald Ridsdale and Robert Best.
He said he has been heartened by the inquiry's almost 200 separate proposals, but is sceptical of the Catholic Church's response.
"I never thought in a million years I would be in this position. But is today a celebration? I suppose it is," he said.
"It's certainly something that you've worked hard and tirelessly for, and recognition, law reform, redress and awareness. It's been an incredible five years."
Mr Walsh hopes abuse on the scale uncovered by the commission will never happen again.
"I'm of the very firm belief that [the issue of] child abuse in Australia has lacked leadership," he said.
"I can personally point to the Catholic Church on that one. It's lacked leadership, and the problems that we have today should have been addressed many, many years ago."
Mr Walsh ultimately has a simple message for the Australian public, whom he thanked for their support.
"Thank you. The support to come forward, to announce a royal commission, to accept change," he said.
"They tied ribbons on fences, the church fence here in support of us. And it's been beautiful, it's been an awakening experience to see it."
|PHOTO: A group from the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) express their gratitude outside the final hearing. (ABC News: Jack Fisher)|
'Next year I begin and I'm going to Canberra'
The royal commission's final report recommended it be made compulsory for religious ministers to report knowledge or suspicion of abuse heard during confession.
It has also called for state and territory governments to make it a criminal offence to fail to protect a child from risk of abuse within an institution.
The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said the Church and other institutions had "historically failed children".
"This is a shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families," Archbishop Hart said.
"Once again I reiterate my unconditional apology for this suffering and a commitment to ensuring justice for those affected."
But Mr Walsh said he was sceptical of the Church's response so far.
"When that apology is backed up by action, I'll accept [it]," he said.
Mr Walsh will be heading to Canberra in the New Year, where he plans to be part of the lobbying effort for parliament to take action on the report.
"Oh absolutely, 100 per cent. I will be working towards that," he said.
"I'm going to take a bit of time off and I'm going to have a bit of a break, but next year I begin and I'm going to Canberra."