SURVIVORS of clergy sexual abuse in Ballarat will call for a new government-run support fund to assist victims suffering from “church-related injury”.
More than 40 people from Ballarat who have contributed to a group submission to the Victorian inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse will call for an interim ruling for the Victorian government to establish the fund, with costs taken up exclusively by churches and religious orders.
With the inquiry’s reporting date extended until September 30 and a Commonwealth royal commission under way, the group will use evidence at the second hearing in Ballarat on Thursday to say the fund is urgently required to prevent further suicides.
In a statement on behalf of members of the group submission, victims Peter Blenkiron and Andrew Collins said the fund was “a concrete solution” that would save lives.
“Survivors suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and depression could be offered short or long-term relief from the burden of everyday financial concerns just to pay the costs of living while unable to work,” the statement said.
“This would free survivors from this debilitating additional stress and accelerate recovery through ongoing counselling, body pain management and other therapies.”
The proposed scheme would be modelled on the Department of Veterans Affairs Totally and Permanently Incapacitated status.
The statement says survivors feel abandoned by religious organisations and are increasingly dependent on government support due to unemployment, depression and drug and alcohol addiction.
“Surely churches should first support the victims, not the perpetrators of the crimes,” the statement said.
The 10-page group submission provided to The Courier outlines a tragic history of clergy sexual abuse in seven Catholic schools and boys’ homes dating from 1965 to 1983.
A list of more than 25 examples of physical abuse inflicted on boys as young as five is included.
Victims also reported serious sexual abuse including oral and anal rape, forced masturbation and inappropriate touching.
The document records the names of infamous perpetrators Gerald Ridsdale, Robert Charles Best, Edward Dowlan and Stephen Francis Farrell.
It outlines the devastating impact on families, careers and the wider community, including depression, anxiety, sexual confusion, violence, self harm and broken relationships.
Completed over recent months with the assistance of Monash University PhD student and lawyer Judy Courtin, the submission is expected to be the subject of national media coverage this week.
More than 30 people who were unable to speak of their abuse have signed the submission.
The inquiry, established as a result of a leaked internal Victoria Police report into suicides in the Ballarat region, will hear from senior members of religious organisations including the Catholic Church in coming months.
If you or someone you know requires assistance, contact the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault on 5320 3933.