Almost $60,000 has been raised overnight in a crowdfund set up to help sex abuse survivors travel to Rome to front Cardinal George Pell in person.
On Monday, A Go Fund Me page was established by celebrity media personalities and The Project television hosts Meshel Laurie and Gorgi Coghlan to assist survivors with costs for flights and accommodation.
By Tuesday night it had raised more than $57,000 with hundreds of people across Australia contributing to the cause. Survivors had hoped to raised $55,000 to allow up to 15 representatives from Ballarat to attend the Cardinal’s evidence in Rome. Two anonymous benefactors donated $10,000 and $5000 respectively.
Ballarat clergy abuse survivor Stephen Woods said victims were “ecstatic.”
“I personally had no idea people would be so generous and so kind,” Mr Woods said. “But I also realise that people are now linking themselves to the movement for justice and healing in Ballarat.”
Mr Woods said he felt people were donating not only to see justice prevail but because they were becoming increasingly aware of the “machinations” the church are putting up against victims to stop them discovering the full extent of abuse. Cardinal Pell previously succeeded in a bid to remain in Rome after the inquiry accepted a doctor's report which said he was too sick to return to Australia to testify.
The commission released a statement which said enquiries were being made about venues for Cardinal Pell to give evidence in Rome and more details would be released once a decision was made. Cardinal Pell is scheduled to evidence on February 29 for three days. His evidence will cover the church's handling of child sex abuse by clergy during his time as priest in the Ballarat diocese in the 1970s and 80s. He will also be questioned about his time as the archbishop of Melbourne.
The Ballarat and District Child Abuse Survivor group have requested Cardinal Pell’s evidence is given outside of the Vatican, in a setting which met the standards of an Australian courtroom.
Clergy abuse survivor David Ridsdale said discussions were underway for money raised to be used to establish a healing centre for sex assualt victims in Ballarat if the commission decided to hold a closed court for Cardinal Pell’s evidence and victims were unable to fly to Rome. Details: gofundme.com/SendBallaratToRome