About 100 people gathered at St Patrick’s College on Tuesday afternoon as the school took the momentous step of officially apologising to victims of sexual abuse who suffered during their time at the college.
Sexual abuse survivor Phil Nagle joined headmaster John Crowley and student leaders in speaking at the event in what was an historic first for the school.
The gathering also served as the official opening of the school’s reflective garden and monument, with high profile survivors Peter Blenkiron and Andrew Collins accompanying college captain Mitchell Tuddenham to unveil the space.
During his remarks, Mr Crowley said “we hope that through this apology and our commitment to ongoing action support, we can help change futures”.
While acknowledging the need to offer a formal apology to survivors, the headmaster was keen to emphasise the school’s desire to continue to engage with and offer support to those in need.
“We acknowledge and apologise for abuse committed by religious and past staff of this College on this site, abuse committed by religious who lived here and offended at other institutions within Ballarat and beyond, and abuse committed by ordained Old Collegians,” Mr Crowley said.
“This was harm that can never be measured and can never be undone. For this we apologise.”
The symbolic occasion comes less than a month after the college’s governing body, Edmund Rice Education Australia, made an apology in Canberra on behalf of all of its schools. Mr Crowley was among the guest speakers at the national event.
This was harm that can never be measured and can never be undone. For this we apologise.John Crowley - St Patrick's College headmaster
The governing body then mandated all of its schools would make their own apologies, of which St Patrick’s College has been the first.
Mr Nagle said while the apology would certainly not heal of the wounds from the years of trauma suffered by survivors and their families, it was “an important step in the right direction”.
“What happened to myself and other survivors cannot be changed or fixed, but the overwhelming support and compassion from the community, particularly the Ballarat and St Pat’s community, helps to ease the pain,” Mr Nagle said. “In life you will be judged and measured on what you did that was wrong, but moreso on what you did about it.”