One Family Shares Their Story before Telling It to Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission

ABC News
May 18, 2015

[with video]


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Tomorrow, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heads to Ballarat. The regional Victorian city was home to some of the most notorious paedophiles Australia has ever seen. The effect of the abuse has been felt far wider than simply amongst the many victims. It's intergenerational and it's scarred the entire city.

Tonight, Madeleine Morris tells the story of one family who are set to share their experience tomorrow at the Royal commission.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sunday is footy day in Ballarat. It's all smiles at Eureka Stadium. But this city bears deep wounds.

TIM LANE: I think the impact of child abuse, you lock it away. You feel ashamed, even though you've done nothing wrong.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Over the next three weeks in Ballarat, the scars inflicted by paedophiles within the Catholic Church will be laid bare.

For Tim Lane and his family, it's something they've lived with every day for the last 30 years.

TIM LANE: I remember there was an armchair there and I was about four and the lights were all off in the lounge room here and I think mum was out in the kitchen and all us kids and this Grant Ross was in here and he was fondling me right there. It's clear as anything.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Tim was not alone. All six Lane children were abused by a family friend, Redemptorist Brother Grant Ross.

RUTH LANE: I was lighting a fire and the kids came out and opened the door and I heard the eldest one say to Tim, "Go on, Tim, tell mum." And I said, "What have you done?... He said, "Brother Ross has been rude to us."

MADELEINE MORRIS: Ruth and Brian Lane were devout Catholics raising six children, each born just one year apart. It was a busy life when Ross began visiting them a couple of times a week.

TIM LANE: He used to come round when Dad was at work and - yeah, so, he picked his mark and knew that Mum - it was hard to watch six kids at once too, he knew that.

RUTH LANE: I was over doing the dishes after tea or getting a cup of tea for him and I couldn't see because the bench was between the table and where I was standing. And, all the time, apparently, he was touching the kids.

MADELEINE MORRIS: After the kids told Ruth what Ross had been doing, she wrote him a letter and tried to see him at the monastery. She was always told by the other staff he wasn't available. So, like many other families, Ruth and Brian let it go and didn't tell police or the Church authorities.

BRIAN LANE: Well at the time because the kids were so little, we thought...

RUTH LANE: They pleaded with us not to tell.

BRIAN LANE: How can you go - when they're so small and who would believe you anyway?

MADELEINE MORRIS: Little did the Lanes know, Ballarat was plagued by a group of paedophile Catholic clergy. At its heart was St Alipius primary school, where five now notorious paedophiles worked, including Father Gerald Ridsdale and Christian brothers Robert Best and Edward Dowlan. But throughout the city at schools, churches and an orphanage, places where children should've been safe, they weren't.

BRIAN LANE: At the time, we didn't realise at what was going on at St Alipius School too. So John attended that school. And ... things happened there too with the boys.

MADELEINE MORRIS: At the same time the Lanes' second son John was being abused by Grant Ross at home, they now believe he was also being abused at school.

RUTH LANE: You can't prove anything, of course. But he didn't want to go to school and I wondered why 'cause he was a good student.

MADELEINE MORRIS: John took his own life when he was 19. He is one of at least 40 suicides in the city related to clergy abuse.

The inquiry will hear from victims who attended five Catholic-run institutions here in Ballarat. It will also hear from the Church, some convicted paedophiles themselves and the wider community and the message of many will be that the abuse of an unknown number of children in this diocese has had a much wider effect than simply on the victims themselves.

Georgie Crozier, who chaired a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the abuse two years ago, has already heard from many of the victims.

GEORGIE CROZIER, CHAIR, VIC. INQUIRY INTO CHILD ABUSE: It became apparent that there was a real ripple effect that went right across the community. And so it wasn't just the victims who were affected by the abuse, it was those family members and others who were in their care who were deeply affected as well.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Brian and Ruth have paid a high price of their own for their children's trauma. Not only have they lost one child to suicide, another won't speak to them and blames Ruth for not knowing the abuse was going on.

Do you ever have any feelings of guilt about that?


BRIAN LANE: Oh, yes.

RUTH LANE: I should've known.

BRIAN LANE: It's actually broken my heart, really. ... To think that I was brought up as a strict Catholic and for this to happen is - I can't find words, really.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Tim is now studying to be a Jehovah's Witness. He likes the calmness it brings him and enjoys a simple faith with no priests or brothers with absolute power.

Grant Ross died in 1993 and was never tried for his alleged crimes. But Tim Lane believes his family's tormentor will meet justice.

TIM LANE: I have my faith in the creator that they'll be punished, not - if we don't get 'em in this system, in our man's justice, he's seen everything, he's seen the lot. And those that used his word and went and done that to children is one of the most evillest things you could do.

LEIGH SALES: Madeleine Morris reporting. And if this story's raised concerns for you, help is available. You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.








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