Painting a new story

CHANGING CULTURE: Artist Dan Butterworth and survivor Peter Blenkiron at the launch of the exhibition. Picture: Lachlan Bence

CHANGING CULTURE: Artist Dan Butterworth and survivor Peter Blenkiron at the launch of the exhibition. Picture: Lachlan Bence

In sharing his experience of traumatic child sex abuse at the hands of clergy, Peter Blenkiron hoped to achieve justice, but he also hopes to drive greater cultural change.

In a new film to be screened this Sunday, Mr Blenkiron talks about giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse, travelling to Rome and learning to understand his confusing world. The film involves stories from other clergy abuse survivors and advocates. 

Film co-creator Vanessa Beetham said through initiatives like the film advocates in the Ballarat community are demonstrating how working together can create cultural and attitudinal change.

But Mr Blenkiron said the message of the film is greater than creating awareness of abuse. It is attempting to create cultural change. 

“It’s going through the compassion fatigue and it’s not just about sexual abuse and the aftermath. It’s a no brainer that it’s not okay to rape children. The message is broader – about general well being, mental health as a community. That we have to treat this differently,” Mr Blenkiron said.

The screening is part of the No More Silence week, which will begin on Friday with a SafeTalk session. Lifeline’s Michelle MacGillivray will facilitate the event which will focus on working with the community to prevent suicide. 

Mr Blenkiron says these sessions, which help people learn what to do if they or someone else is in crisis, are essential to changing how we talk and think about mental health.

“It’s the equivalent of first aid for mental health. It’s what do you say so that it doesn’t push someone into a bad space? And what do you do when you think someone is in a bad space?”

Ms MacGillivray says a focus on working with the community remained vital to curbing the city’s high suicide rate. 

“Most people thinking about suicide don’t want to die, but they do need someone who can help them,” Ms MacGillivray said.

“We’re calling in a suicide emergency in Australia. 3027 people died by suicide last year – that’s eight people a day. That’s too many. It is most common cause of death for people aged 15-34 and it’s tragic that we are losing people at the prime of their life.” 

Film screening: Regent Cinema, Sunday May 21, 1pm

Lifeline: 13 11 14.