Federal member for Ballarat Catherine King has made an emotional plea for Cardinal George Pell not to let the Ballarat community down again.
In a prepared speech in parliament on Tuesday, Ms King said the Cardinal’s failure to appear at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse in Ballarat were “not the actions of a man of courage”.
Labelling the Cardinal “Ballarat to the core”, a clearly emotional Ms King had this to say: “As you prepare to give testimony on the 29th, I want to say to you: please do not let them down again.”
Her speech followed that of Wendouree MP Sharon Knight, who made a similar speech on February 10.
WATCH CATHERINE KING’S EMOTIONAL SPEECH HERE
The full transcript of Ms King’s speech can be seen below.
“The last few weeks have once again seen a spotlight fall on my region, with the return of the focus of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse to the terrible events that occurred in the Ballarat region.
There has been a lot said, some good, some bad, some controversial, some of it hard to hear.
No-one but the survivors and those who care for them can truly ever understand the pain and harm caused by this terrible part of our community's story, but a part of our story it is.
But also part of that story is what we as a community do to embrace the survivors, what we as a community do to hear their stories, what we as a community do to understand who they are today and what they need from us.
There are some in my community who wish this could just all go away and that we would just stop talking about these terrible events.
There are those totally bewildered by what they are hearing, so at odds is it with their own experiences of growing up and of faith.
Then there are those who have lost faith in the institutions they trusted.
There are those who keep that faith but are still finding their way, as we all are, as to what they can do to help
All these are entirely understandable responses but they of course pale against the harm and damage done to the many innocent children in our region who were not believed and not protected and who were irreparably harmed.
It is therefore incumbent on all of us to tell all those who have come forward—and those who are unable to do so yet: we hear you; we believe you.
One very visual way my community is doing that is through 'Loud Fence'. Started by Maureen Hatcher in Ballarat, Loud Fences are made up of ribbons.
Each colourful ribbon, tied to the fence outside a place where someone was hurt, symbolises the end of someone's silence.
Each colourful ribbon is a symbol that victims and survivors are not alone. As Maureen said:
The idea is that it's a loud fence full of bold colours because there's been too much silence surrounding the issue for too long.
… children weren't listened to and they weren't supported, so it's time to support them now and give them a voice.
The Loud Fence ribbons have now reached around the world, with ribbons in London, New York, Boston and the Vatican.
Every ribbon on every fence and post and door tells a story, and the message back from our community is:
'We believe you. What happened was wrong, and the harm done to you must be acknowledged and never repeated, and redress must be given.'
Of course, it is not possible to focus on the events of the past week without commenting on the actions of Cardinal Pell.
And I want to address my remarks directly to him.
Of course it is quite correct that you have the right to be treated by the royal commission fairly, as is every other witness.
This is not, nor should it be, a kangaroo court.
But I am not here to speak for you.
You are a person of great authority and great power who, unlike many of those where were stripped of their voice, has had many powerful and influential friends speaking on your behalf, particularly through the media.
I do not begrudge you that but, as someone who sees every day the impact of your decision not to appear in Ballarat in person to give evidence, let me use my voice in this place to speak on behalf of those who were the survivors of these events and say: these are not the actions of a man of courage.
My community looked up to you, revered you and trusted you.
You are one of them—a Paddy boy, Ballarat to the core.
As you prepare to give testimony on the 29th, I want to say to you: please do not let them down again.
As I speak here in this place, there are 15 survivors and their supporters on their way to Rome.
I acknowledge the work of Gorgi Coghlan, who I know, and Meshel Laurie, who I do not, in raising the funds to get them there.
These survivors will represent not just those hurt by past misdeeds but also the whole community who want to help them finally find some closure and heal, and they take with them the voices and thoughts of all of us.
While the coming week will be a difficult one, what I am sure of is that the survivors groups, the local media and the wider community will be unflinching in our support.
I note that funding remaining from Gorgi and Meshel's efforts is to be put in trust to assist survivors into the future, and I do hope that the work of the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault is part of that.
As I said at the start of this contribution, these terrible events are part of our story, but also part of our story is what we do next—what we as a community do to understand the needs of those harmed and give them redress, what we as a community do to continue to include and support them on the many hard days ahead and what we as a community do to make sure this never, ever happens again, because, at the heart of it, that is why we are having this royal commission: to make sure this never happens again.