THEY are in a city full of people but there were moments Ballarat’s clergy sex abuse survivors never felt more alone.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s public hearing into Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat commenced at the Melbourne County Court last week.
As more truth emerges of Ballarat’s dark history of abuse, torture and rape survivors Andrew Collins and Peter Blenkiron say the emotional toll of being away from their loved ones intensifies.
“It’s really, really hard,” Mr Collins said. “I’m surrounded by people and I still feel alone. I’m really missing my family and my support structure but it’s important to be here so I’ve got to get through it.”
Mr Blenkiron said many of the survivors attended the public hearings then go back to their accommodation and fall to pieces.
“A lot of them can’t be even be here every day because they are just so knocked out,” Mr Blenkiron said.
But as the truth trickles out, survivors say the burden they have carried so long is slowly shifting.
Former Mildura detective Denis Ryan, 83, told the inquiry last week how his investigation into numerous child sex abuse allegations against a disgraced priest was thwarted by senior police officers working alongside the church to cover the crimes.
“If Denis Ryan was listened to we wouldn’t be in this situation now,” Mr Blenkiron said. “If somebody like that wasn’t listened to, then what hope did we ever have?”
As the second week of the public hearing commences survivors want one thing: Truth.
“I want to see people take the stand and tell the truth. If just one or two people did this then the rest will come tumbling down,” Mr Collins said.
Mr Blenkiron said the implementation of a supportive system to stop the premature deaths of survivors was crucial. “We need to able to support those struggling today as a result of the past,” Mr Blenkiron said.
“We need to enter a new phase so all patriarchal systems of the past, which allowed this horrific abuse to be inflicted on children no longer exist.”
Mr Blenkiron said he believed clergy leaders were taking a 1962 directive from the Vatican to conceal sex-crimes against children to save the reputation of the church.
Mr Blenkiron said the only way forward was to rewrite Vatican law.
“I want George Pell, our most senior Catholic to come here in February and say he will push to rewrite Vatican law and protect the children of the future,” he said.
In the midst of all the darkness Mr Blenkiron said hope for the future must prevail above everything else.
“It’s time the denial turns to admission and real healing and change can happen not just in Australia but the world.”
Mr Collins said survivors continued to find strength in the support of the Ballarat community.
“We are here in Melbourne but just a hundred kilometres away there are so many people who are supporting us and that means so much to us,” Mr Collins said.