Protest Voice Muzzled

By Kath Gannaway
Upper Yarra Mail

July 8, 2008

MEMBERS of Healesville protest group HEAR have been told they must apply for a permit to protest against clergy sexual abuse in Sydney during World Youth Day (WYD).

HEAR (Healesville Education and Awareness Raising re Clergy Professional Misconduct and Sexual Abuse) said it has a strong message to deliver during Pope Benedictís visit in mid-July.

Spokeswoman and joint founder of HEAR Pam Krstic said the group had T-shirts printed to wear in a peaceful demonstration.

The group makes no apologies for its unambiguous message: "Bloody angry Aussies" on the front. "Clergy sexual abuse destroys lives" on the back.

But the controversial New South Wales WYD Act has put doubt on whether the groupís planned rally in Sydney will be able to go ahead.

HEAR members will need permission to have a voice on World Youth Day.

The act prohibits certain advertising, placards or other message-bearing items which may be offensive to WYD participants and carries fines of up to $5500.

The Act has been widely criticised by human rights groups as undemocratic.

Ms Krstic said NSW police travelled to Melbourne to meet with representatives of HEAR, Broken Rites and In Good Faith - all groups advocating against sexual abuse by clergy, after learning of their plans.

Ms Krstic said HEAR was not anti-Catholic but is anti-abuse.

She said while she understood people demonstrating may not have the same peaceful approach as HEAR, not being able to deliver their message would be a further silencing of victims.

Ms Krstic said HEAR would put in an application but that there were more than 400 sites gazetted as being off-limits to demonstrators.

She told the Mail the panel deciding on who gets to deliver their message, and who does not, is made up of a representative of the Catholic Church, the NSW police and the government.

"They (the Catholic Church) want it to be a happy, joyous occasion and donít want it spoiled," Ms Krstic said.

"We are still concerned about the safety of children today and tomorrow if the Church does not listen to, and learn from, victimsí stories and, as a result, completely review procedures and practices that have contributed to abuse.

"This has happened in the UK, Ireland and the US and it is time it began here in Australia," she said.

"The bishops still refuse to meet with us, even though the Pope recently encouraged pastoral engagement and political action," she said.

HEAR is also planning demonstrations in Melbourne during the WYD Days In The Diocese events, including a rally in the city on Saturday 19 July to coincide with the pilgrims walk in Sydney.


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