For years he has been a confidante to Ballarat police officers faced with the most heinous of crimes.
In moments of human adversity he has wrapped his arms around families sitting at the hospital bedsides of loved ones dying.
But after almost two decades quietly working behind the scenes as a police and hospital chaplain, Anglican priest Father Gerald Loos will leave Ballarat on Wednesday to embark on his next calling as a parish priest in Noble Park.
In his final hours in Ballarat, the outgoing St Peter’s Anglican Church priest called for more support systems for police and emergency service personnel working on the city’s front-line as they grapple with rising rates of crime, drug use and complex mental health issues.
His words come in the wake of the release of Victoria Police’s landmark review which found management created a culture that discouraged officers from seeking help for mental distress.
“We often don’t think of the trauma they face,” Father Loos said.
“That’s not just police but all the emergency services people. We don’t often think about what they are being faced with day in and day out and the way they can sometimes be treated by the community as well.”
Since 2009, he has supported police dealing with traumas spanning from murders to tragedies that have left the community reeling.
He has worked in Anglican parishes in Ballan, Buninyong and most recently Ballarat’s CBD.
“Very rarely do we thank our emergency services or our police for the work they do,” he said.
Among the most profound changes Father Loos has seen in Ballarat during his 19 years as a priest in the city was a shift towards community acceptance of cultural diversity.
“When I first came here almost 20 years ago it (multiculturalism) was not quite so widespread,” the Sri Lankan born priest said.
“But there has been more and more acceptance as people have felt less threatened by it."
"To witness the development of multiculturalism in the city and to see other cultures being accepted in Ballarat has been a wonderful thing.”
Father Loos’s calling into the priesthood came when he was 24 after he saw young people in his homeland being ravaged by drug addiction.
Prior to moving to Ballarat in 1997, he spent years helping drug addicted youth on the streets of Sri Lanka into rehabilitation.
“I have always been drawn to working with the communities and being there for people in times of need,” he said.
Among his greatest challenges was his role as Ballarat’s hospital chaplain for the last 15 years.
“I have spent a lot of time with people who are dying and their families,” Father Loos said.
He said among his greatest highlights was seeing women ordained as deacons and priests in the Anglican Church.
He had also loved watching the growth of the church’s Anglicare support service which reached out to the community’s most vulnerable.
Referring to the high concentration of historic child sex crimes at the hands of religious clergy in Ballarat, Father Loos said the hurt was far-reaching.
“If a colleague does something wrong, we all feel that pain,” he said.
“It’s something we have to face and accept but also we have to be supportive of those who continue to go through that pain.”
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