Secondary survivors of historic clergy abuse speak out in Australian-first Quilt of Hope book

Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]

October 5, 2022

By Laura Mayers

In a display of power and hope, family members and secondary survivors of historic clergy abuse have told their stories in an Australian-first book.   

The Quilt of Hope book was launched in Ballarat, a collation of tales from inspirational people who took a stand to make their voices heard.

The book comes following the creation of the Quilt of Hope, a blanket made of 80 hand and machine-stitched panels that are embroidered with messages and symbols.

It’s a compelling and tangible piece of art to display the “gruesome” truth of institutional clergy abuse, each square dedicated to honouring the abuse survivors.

The quilt now resides in the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra.

It was created by more than 80 Catholic parishioners in Ballarat, the mothers of survivors of abuse who contributed to the quilt between 2010 and 2019. It was envisioned, designed, and made by Beryl Andersen and Carmel Moloney.

Now, Ms Moloney’s daughter Adrianne Moloney — co-author and collator of the Quilt of Hope book — said the book was a powerful companion to the art and a vital step for families and survivors.

“The stories, particularly of these mothers, are just incredible,” Ms Moloney said.

“It’s been an incredible experience for the ones who we’ve managed to include … because their voices haven’t been heard.”

The different stories and accounts are from parishioners, family members, and members of the community Ms Moloney describes as “truth seekers” rather than “whistleblowers”.

A secondary survivor is a family member, friend, or partner of someone who has experienced sexual assault, as it can be traumatising for not only the survivor of the assault, but for those around them.

“[It means] other mothers are reading it and going, I understand that completely … I understand the ripple effect because that is what happened to my family,” she said.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the pain, an acknowledgement of trauma, and … you’re believed. We believe you.”

Ms Moloney said the book launch was an emotional day and an important opportunity to gather a community of affected people together in one room.

“One of the writers burst into tears during the launch … it was just the significance of what we have done,” she said.

The blurb of the Quilt of Hope book reads, “This is an inspirational story of people who chose to stand up in the face of evil and work together to challenge the collective silence of the Catholic Church and wider Catholic community”.

Ann Ryan was a catholic schoolteacher in Mortlake from the 1970s to the 1990s and made a powerful submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Ms Ryan taught at St Colman’s school when convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale was parish priest.

She has worked tirelessly over the decades to be a champion for survivors of clergy abuse, and to hold the church to account. That hard work, and her story, have been immortalised in the Quilt of Hope book.

“I’m really, really just, so honoured … it was the members of this particular group, who made the quilt … that brought me back,” Ms Ryan said.

“Now that there is something more tangible for others to share … it does restore your sense of hope that you know the atrocity is out there [but] it’s no longer hidden.”

Ms Ryan said despite her decades of advocacy work, despite reparation offered, and despite greater awareness of the widespread clergy abuse, there needed to be more done from the church.

“The culture of the institution is never going to allow for appropriate response and completely new policies,” she said.

“I’m a declared atheist. [Now] I believe in the power of people.”

This November marks a decade since former prime minister Julia Gillard announced she would recommend a royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse to the Governor-General.

Paul Tatchell experienced institutional abuse in the 1970s in Ballarat.

Mr Tatchell said he did not identify with the term “survivor” or “victim” and the abuse did not define him.

He said having a community of people come together to create the Quilt of Hope book and be there to support one another throughout the years was crucial.

“[The book launch] was one of the most emotional events I’ve ever spoken at,” Mr Tatchell said.

“Ten years ago, there was no hope. People thought it was a disaster that we could never recover from.

“These people had the view of, well, there is hope. And in this little book … they’ve given a little piece of themselves to [work toward] finding a solution.”