Royal Commission community forum in Ballarat next week

BALLARAT is only the second regional stop for the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse after Coff’s Harbour.

The commission will hold a community forum in Ballarat next Wednesday night, facilitated by the Centre Against Sexual Assault Ballarat (CASA).

CASA manager Shireen Gunn said Ballarat had a terrible history of clergy sexual abuse.

“Ballarat stands out as having a significant history,” Ms Gunn said.

“A number of victim survivors are quite vocal in our area (and) the Catholic congregation’s response is also leading the way.”

CASA senior clinician Andrea Lockhart said the original Ballarat group submission to the state government clergy sex abuse inquiry had grown significantly and now included victims abused in other areas around Victoria.

“It’s become a collective voice,” Ms Lockhart said.

“It represents people not ready to make their own submission but still lets them be heard.”

Ms Gunn said the forum will be open to everyone and people do not need to book.

“You don’t have to talk. You can just listen and stay as long or as short as you like,” Ms Gunn said.

She said she would open the forum before handing over to the commission’s chairman, Justice Peter McClellan, who will speak before a question- and-answer segment.

Ms Lockhart also said individual stories were best told in private hearings.

“We think people are going to want to know more about what is going to happen when the commission is finished and what it’s going to achieve,” she said.

However, Ms Gunn said “there is no question that is not important or relevant”.

She said CASA counsellors would be on site if required and would also be available on 5320 3933 if the forum stirred up memories or emotions.

The forum will be held from 6pm to 8pm at the Eureka Ballroom and is closed to the media for privacy reasons. Children under 16 must be accompanied by adult.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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