ACU Aquinus campus renames leacture theatre after abuse inqury

THE Australian Catholic University’s Aquinas campus has dumped the Mulkearns name from its lecture theatre.

Any reference to former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns, seen by many as failing to act on paedophile priests in the diocese during his tenure, has been removed from the Mair Street theatre. The university has renamed it the Sisters of Mercy Theatre.

The move to delete the Mulkearns name comes after a call from clergy sexual abuse survivors last year.

One survivor said the state government inquiry into institutionalised child abuse last year clearly showed former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns, after whom the theatre was named, had failed to act on paedophile priests in the diocese.

In announcing the theatre name chance this week, ACU’s acting director of marketing and external relations, Chrissa Favaloro, said the education wing of the Ballarat campus had recently undergone a major refurbishment. 

“As part of that process, the university wished to acknowledge the 104 years of education work the Sisters of Mercy had undertaken on the site.”

Sexual abuse survivors spokesman Andrew Collins said the name change had been something the community had requested for some time. 

“It is a good move to change the name, it is very important for survivors,” he said.

“It is a very positive move.” 

Mr Collins said there was a lot of discussion about a year ago concerning the potential name change, however, admitted it was disappointing it took so long to happen. 

Bishop Mulkearns was in charge of the Ballarat diocese in the 1970s when more than 107 substantiated cases of abuse occurred.

Speaking at the 2013 inquiry, current Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird said Mulkearns had made “tragic mistakes” in handling sexual abuse cases, including moving priests around the diocese. 

Bishop Bird’s predecessor Peter Connors also conceded Bishop Mulkearns had to accept responsibility for what had occurred.

Bishop Mulkearns, who now lives on the Great Ocean Road, was excused from giving evidence at the inquiry due to suffering a stroke.

“Commenting on how Mulkearns handled criminal abuse matters, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart said that ‘the covering up and the doing nothing means that it is worthy of great condemnation’,” Mr Collins said.

Mr Collins has previously said the Mulkearns Theatre, and its prominent place in the Mair Street university, was causing hurt and anger among survivors and their families, particularly of those who have since committed suicide.

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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