There is a general sense of fatigue throughout western Victoria. In Ballarat it is palpable.
Peter Blenkiron is a victim of clerical child sexual abuse. An erudite and articulate man, he remains convinced his future lies in Ballarat but worries the challenges for the city and its 100,000 strong population may prove insurmountable.
“For the last 20 years, all we’ve been doing is mopping up the blood,” Blenkiron says. “Twenty years from now are we going to still be doing the same thing?”
The Catholic Diocese of Ballarat extends across 58,000 square kilometres of western Victoria, from Portland in the southwest of the state to the Murray River towns of Swan Hill and Mildura in the north. Travelling from town to town for The Australian’s podcast “Ballarat’s Children”, it slowly dawned on me that there is not a single city, town, village or tiny hamlet that is not in some way stained by clerical child sex abuse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse case studies across Australia have uncovered appalling tales of abuse wherever children have congregated; religious and social groups and sporting associations. Even the country’s most prestigious schools have failed children. But there is nowhere quite like the Ballarat Diocese, where pedophile rings were active for decades and some of the worst sex offenders this country has ever seen preyed on children without hindrance.
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