Ballarat’s Damascus College will no longer use the surname of former bishop and bishop emeritus of Ballarat James O’Collins as a house title at the school.
O’Collins, who was bishop of Ballarat during the time paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale was preying on children in the diocese and did nothing to remove him, had been honoured across the city at St Patrick’s Cathedral and several schools with plaques and honorifics.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that O'Collins received a complaint in the 1960s Ridsdale had sexually abused a boy, but took no action.
Damascus College principal Matthew Byrne told The Courier the guiding principle of the name change was to no longer perpetuate any harm caused to those affected by O’Collins’s inaction and by the continuing use of his name.
He said past and present students and staff worked together to come up with a solution for a name-change, and decided to announce it at the end of the school year to minimise disruption and uncertainty for current students.
Mr Byrne said the change of name to St Martin House would not erase the history of O’Collins, and was not intended to. He said what had occurred during Bishop O’Collins tenure would be acknowledged.
The Catholic Church has also renamed O’Collins Hall next to St Patrick’s Cathedral in the city.
James O’Collins was appointed as bishop of Ballarat in 1941 after serving in Geraldton, WA. He remained in the role until 1971. On his retirement he was appointed bishop emeritus. He founded St Paul's Technical College and was made a KBE in 1980. He died in 1983 aged 91.
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