Survivors call for ribbons to be replenished, not removed

STAY LOUD: A number of clergy abuse survivors have spoken up. Picture: Dylan Burns

STAY LOUD: A number of clergy abuse survivors have spoken up. Picture: Dylan Burns

Removing hundreds of colourful ribbons tied to the fence of St Patrick’s Cathedral undermines the key message of the Loud Fence movement, clergy abuse survivors have said.

Ballarat Catholic Diocese Vicar-General Justin Driscoll has invited survivors, parishioners and community members to take their ribbons home or place them in a custom-made box when a reflective open garden is unveiled on December 17.

But a number of survivors closely connected to the grassroots Loud Fence movement have said they were not consulted and expressed disappointment in the decision.

Survivor Tony Wardley said the ribbons were a conversation starter, which empowered future generations to speak up and take a stand against abuse.

“I’ve seen some comments saying the ribbons should come down because they are a trigger,” he said.

“But it is the buildings themselves that are the trigger, the ribbons give hope.

“They (the church) may have one or two survivors’ support, but they haven’t spoken to many.”

Abuse survivor Gary Sculley described the ribbons as a living memorial and a powerful visual representation of community support that, he said, must go forward.

“To have that as our memorial is very significant because it is a growing thing that represents humanity itself,” he said.

“A lot of people can’t come forward and can’t talk.

“But they can talk through Loud Fence and that is what gives them their strength, to take that away would be a travesty.”

Mr Sculley invited the key decision makers to meet with objecting survivors to discuss a way forward.

He suggested St Patrick’s Cathedral take on St Alipius Parish’s initiative of holding annual working bees, where ribbons will be replenished rather than removed, and the garden maintained to prevent the view of the ribbons being obstructed. 

Meanwhile, Loud Fence founder Maureen Hatcher has questioned the timing of the removal of the ribbons.

With the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concluding, there needed to be a clear message the journey was not over.

“This is not the end,” she said. 

“And to be able to drive past and remember there is that support can be really powerful.

“There are still a lot of stories to be told, so there are still a lot of ribbons to be tied.”

To contact CASA call 5320 3933 or free call 24 hours 1800 806 292. Lifeline can be accessed on 13 11 14.