More Ballarat Clergy Victims: Advocate

By Megan Neil
7 News
May 14, 2015

Many victims who haven't come forward decades after being abused by clergy and religious in Ballarat might be prompted to speak up when the abuse royal commission sits in the Victorian town, a victims' advocate hopes.

Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault manager Shireen Gunn says she has no doubt there are more victims who could be empowered by the commission hearings starting next week, as occurred after Victoria's child abuse inquiry.

"We believe that there's others who haven't come forward yet, that are still in the wings," Ms Gunn told AAP.

"If out of this intensive focus on our area, if more are able to see others have told their story and that gives them a sense that they come forward, that will be really good."

Some of the men - aged in their 40s, 50s and 60s - who sought help after the Victorian parliamentary inquiry were speaking about their abuse for the first time.

The hearing, which begins on Tuesday, will focus on the abuse perpetrated by religious and clergy at schools and other institutions run by the Catholic Church in Ballarat, the church's response and the impact on the local community.

"There is an awareness across the community that the tentacles just reach out so far," Ms Gunn said.

Broken Rites spokesman Wayne Chamley said the victims' advocacy group hopes the hearing goes beyond what the offenders did to encompass the whole response by Catholic Church authorities including the Catholic Education Office and school principals.

"It seems to us that there was systemic failure that went on for years," Dr Chamley told AAP.

"We know complaints were made but nothing was ever done."

The Ballarat session will be only the third time in the 28 royal commission public hearings held so far where convicted offenders have been called to appear.

Whether that includes Australia's worst pedophile priest Father Gerald Francis Ridsdale and the likes of St Alipius Primary School principal Brother Robert Charles Best has not been confirmed.

"I think they'll be expected to give some answers," Dr Chamley said.

Dr Chamley also hopes former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns will appear, after he was too ill to give evidence to the Victorian inquiry.

"I think he's got a lot to answer for."

The parliamentary inquiry heard Bishop Mulkearns destroyed documents and made a "tragic mistake" by not removing Ridsdale when he became aware of sexual abuse allegations.

The Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan said the horrors of what happened in Ballarat and the church's shameful history will again be writ large for all to see but it was an important and necessary process.

"Ballarat has been a really shameful region of Catholic Church perpetrators," he said.

"The impact it's had on the community both in the past and in the present has been profound."








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.