Calls for truth and justice

TIME FOR TRUTH: Ballarat survivors Peter Blenkiron and Andrew Collins want truth and justice to prevail at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s public hearing this week. Picture: Melissa CunninghamTHEY are in a city full of people but there weremomentsBallarat’s clergy sexabusesurvivorsnever felt more alone.

The RoyalCommissioninto InstitutionalResponsesto Child Sexual Abuse’s public hearing into Catholic Church authorities in Ballaratcommenced at the Melbourne County Court last week.

Asmore truth emerges of Ballarat’sdarkhistory of abuse, torture andrapesurvivors Andrew Collins andPeter Blenkiron say theemotional toll of being away from their loved ones intensifies.

“It’s really, really hard,” Mr Collins said. “I’m surrounded by people andI still feel alone. I’m really missing my family and my support structurebut it’s important to be here so I’ve got to get through it.”

Mr Blenkiron said many of the survivorsattendedthe public hearings then go back to their accommodation andfall to pieces.

“A lot of them can’t be even be here every day because they are just so knocked out,” Mr Blenkiron said.

But as the truth trickles out, survivors say the burden they have carried so long is slowly shifting.

Former Mildura detective Denis Ryan, 83, told the inquiry last weekhow hisinvestigation into numerous child sexabuse allegations against a disgraced priestwas thwarted by senior police officers working alongside the church to cover the crimes.

“If Denis Ryan waslistened towe wouldn’t be in this situation now,”Mr Blenkironsaid. “If somebody like that wasn’t listened to, then what hope did we ever have?”

As the second week of the public hearing commencessurvivorswant one thing: Truth.

“I want to see people take the stand and tell the truth. If justone or two people did this then therest will come tumbling down,” Mr Collins said.

Mr Blenkiron saidthe implementation of asupportive system to stop the premature deaths of survivors was crucial.“We need to able to support those struggling today as a result of the past,” MrBlenkiron said.

“We need to enter a new phase so all patriarchal systems of the past, which allowed this horrific abuse to be inflicted on children no longer exist.”

MrBlenkiron said he believedclergy leaders were taking a 1962 directivefrom the Vatican to conceal sex-crimes against children to save the reputation of the church.

Mr Blenkironsaid the only way forward was to rewrite Vatican law.

“I want George Pell, our most senior Catholic to come here in Februaryand say he will push to rewriteVaticanlaw andprotect the children of the future,” he said.

Inthe midst of all the darknessMrBlenkiron said hope for the future mustprevail above everything else.

“It’s time the denial turns to admission and real healing and change can happen not just in Australia but the world.”

Mr Collins saidsurvivors continued to find strength in the support of the Ballarat community.

“Weare here in Melbourne but just a hundred kilometres away there are so many people who are supporting us and that means so much to us,” Mr Collins said.

The Courier, Ballarat

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