Ballarat garden for survivors to heal, grow

Loud Garden: Survivor Brett Mathews, Loud Fence founder Maureen Hatcher and Food is Free founder Lou Ridsdale. A new Food Is Free site will include a LOUD garden for survivors. Picture: Kate Healy.

Loud Garden: Survivor Brett Mathews, Loud Fence founder Maureen Hatcher and Food is Free founder Lou Ridsdale. A new Food Is Free site will include a LOUD garden for survivors. Picture: Kate Healy.

Survivor Dominic Ridsdale finds comfort at the cemetery sitting beside his parents’ graves.

Sometimes he wishes they were there with him, and sometimes he wishes he was over the other side.

Dominic never spoke to them about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his uncle, disgraced pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale, who threatened to kill him if he told anyone.

In 1993 when Ridsdale was convicted of more than 100 charges of child sexual abuse, another uncle approached Dominic and asked if he had suffered too. He lied because he was still afraid he would die.

Now with the everything out in the open, he thinks perhaps his parents’ questions could have led the conversation. A LOUD garden, to be launched next week, will be a place Dominic can go which is removed from death. 

A lot of the survivors are going to appreciate that Ballarat is supporting them and the black cloud is not coming back down. - Survivor Dominic Ridsdale

“Just some days you just think, you just don’t want to be here and to me that’s the only place I can go where I can be happy and forget about all that went on in the seventies,” he said.

“This garden is probably going to help a bit more. Instead of going up to the cemetery and thinking about death, I can think about how good it would be if we can all get down there, all the survivors and just get it out of your system.”

Dominic Ridsdale holds his school photo. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Dominic Ridsdale holds his school photo. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Dominic said the garden, which will be at Food is Free’s new site at Western Oval, showed Ballarat hadn’t dropped survivors “like a sack of spuds” since their return from Rome.  

“A lot of the survivors are going to appreciate that Ballarat is supporting them and the black cloud is not coming back down on Ballarat.

“We half lifted it off - it’s still there - but the main reason we went to Rome was to try and get some answers and try and lift that cloud a bit so hopefully this way the cloud can go away.”

Survivors Tony Wardley and Dominic Ridsdale at St Alipius Parish in Ballarat East. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Survivors Tony Wardley and Dominic Ridsdale at St Alipius Parish in Ballarat East. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Dominic’s cousin and Food Is Free founder Lou Ridsdale said the trauma of abuse had sent ripples through Ballarat which were felt every day.

“When we come together, there is strength and promise.”

The LOUD garden will be launched on Wednesday, May 24 at Suttons House of Music at 10am.