The circus has moved on - for now. Cardinal George Pell is in jail, awaiting sentencing. The cloak of silence was lifted on Tuesday morning and now the whole world knows Pell as a convicted sex abuser.
But has too much attention been trained on one individual, albeit a very powerful one, and not enough on the underlying issues that lead to child abuse?
That is the stance of one man, the Mayor of Moorabool Shire Paul Tatchell, who has campaigned for change for more than two decades.
Himself a victim of sexual abuse at St Patrick’s College during the 1970s, Cr Tatchell told his story to the Royal Commission. Perhaps counter-intuitively, he views Pell’s fall from grace over the past week as an unedifying sideshow.
Unless you get to the root cause of why people are pedophiles in the first place, all we’re doing is locking people upPaul Tatchell, Mayor of Moorabool Shire
“Outside of court, it was like Mississippi Burning. This lynch mob mentality may make people feel good for a period of time.
“But it doesn’t resolve the problem: you’ve lost sight of the purpose why people such as myself have come out and talked about secrets of the past in the hope we would be able to stop this.”
For Cr Tatchell, the huge sums of money invested into exposing institutional sexual abuse, and punishing people, particularly from within the Catholic Church, risk being wasted.
“The Catholic Church don’t own the franchise on this [pedophilia]," he said.
“At no time in this whole process has one dollar been put towards finding out what pedophilia is.
“What have we actually done - as a community or a country - to find out what makes pedophiles tick and how we can resolve that issue? Nobody wants to talk about the sickness.
“If you put somebody in jail for being a pedophile, when they come out, they’re still a pedophile.
“I know they have programs in place, but they don’t have changing behavioural programs.
“Unless you get to the root cause of why people are pedophiles in the first place, all we’re doing is locking people up.
“If we had some understanding of what causes it, I am sure those people would seek treatment or they would be forced to by the family members.”
On a broader cultural level, Cr Tatchell also wants to see more people take action if they think something is wrong.
“If we walk past it, we’re condoning it,” he said. “If you are aware that something’s not quite right and you do nothing about it, you’re condoning it. I don’t think that message has been pushed through loud enough or hard enough.”
“If I know that a family member has been affected or just someone you walk past has been affected by pedophilia, if I do nothing about it, I’m as guilty as the bloody person who did it.”
A long-time campaigner for a law lifting of the sanctity of confession - which he describes as a “no brainer” - he is also a strong advocate for tightening legislation to allow police to pursue those who fail to report abuse.
“There’s too much of a grey area," he says, citing the recent case of the former Adelaide archbishop Philip Wilson, who won an appeal late last year overturning his conviction for failing to report child sex allegations.
He wants the police to have more powers and funding to intervene in suspected cases of sexual abuse and family abuse, even if he does concede that might not always work. “Yes, we’re going to get it wrong from time to time,” he says.
“In terms of institutional response to child abuse, we may have just touched the tip of the iceberg with what’s happened.”
As for Pell, he says: “Despite the fact I have absolutely no time for him as a person, the way they yelled and screamed and released their frustration [at court] - that’s a human being that was walking up there. It wasn’t the Catholic Church, it wasn’t an ideal. As of today he’s a prisoner. His life is over. Where have we come to as a society when that’s acceptable?”
“Is George Pell the be-all and end-all in this? Absolutely not.”
- If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636. Blue Knot Foundation 1300 657 380