OUR SAY: Why Loud Fence was such an important movement for Ballarat

Loud fence was a uniquely Ballarat inspired movement.

It may have grown out of a dark past but it represented its best elements; courage, honesty and community support.

The Courier has been proud to applaud this movement as it grew from the idea of a few passionate individuals, flourished with the energy of collective empathy over the scalding months of the hearings and transformed a city with its colourful ribbons.

Now on the eve of the report findings of the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Sexual Abuse it is heartening to see St Patrick’s Cathedral is also giving lasting significance to the gesture with a memorial garden.

The diocese, so troubled by a history of abuse, will follow the example set by St Patrick’s College and turn these ribbons into a permanent memorial. 

At the time of the hearings, social media commentators branded it as ephemeral and inconsequential lip-service but The Courier argued then it is what these ribbons represent that mattered and they are qualities a community cannot live without.

Others would wish the whole period of damaging history to just disappear into the past but that is all the more reason for its permanence as a memorial, lasting for future generations to wonder, grieve and question.

The abuse of innocent children in a multitude of institutions, not just the Catholic Church, is now an accepted fact. 

Ballarat could not move forward without facing up to this dark past and with these revelations, the healing can begin.

Whether in ribbons or memorials, Loud Fence stood for this healing.

But Loud Fence was also about the recognition of suffering, drawing from the wellspring of human empathy and highlighting the powerful resource of common humanity, an energy to draw from the errors of a collective past to build abetter future.

It also tapped into a more universal spirit, not that the abuse affected all but that the suffering of innocents is something to be universally deplored.

Loud Fence is also about solidarity because one of the darkest legacies of these crimes was to drive its victims out into a wilderness of guilt and self-destruction.

Loud fence as a gesture turned that around and said the community recognises the wrong, it embraces not just victims but all those who have the courage to admit and demand this cannot happen again. 

Together these forces; empathy, inclusion, solidarity have the strength of hope, promising powerful new foundations for a future.

It is both symbolic and perhaps highly meaningful a gate to the memorial garden on Lyons Street, closed for decades will finally be opened to welcome all those who want to face up to the past.