Extraordinarily brave, humble and selfless - just a few of the words used for Peter Blenkiron, who has been named a "legend of St Patrick's College".
The honour, bestowed on the college's highest achieving and most admired old boys, was announced yesterday. Dr Michael Flynn, a military surgeon who helped lead Australia's surgical support to Banda Aceh after the 2004 tsunami, also received the award.
A posthumous honour went to George Devine Treloar, who helped tens of thousands of Pontian Greek refugees in the 1920s.
The thing that strikes you about Peter is his very gentle nature and his absolute humility. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what he has done and to connect with so many people. He's put others before himself. He's a very selfless human being.Allan McKinnon, Old Collegians Association president
The college acknowledged Mr Blenkiron's role as "a beacon for fellow survivors... a spokesman, a confidant and a leader in their quest for acknowledgement, support and adequate redress".
The president of the St Patrick's College Old Collegians Association Allan McKinnon said: "The thing that strikes you about Peter is his very gentle nature and his absolute humility."
"It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what he has done and to connect with so many people."
"He's put others before himself. He's a very selfless human being."
Mr Blenkiron, who was sexually abused at the college in the 1970s, has been a tireless advocate for Ballarat's survivors. Maureen Hatcher, the founder of the Loud Fence movement, said Mr Blenkiron had used his experience to "enlighten others about mental health issues".
"He has reached out to many over the years, allowing others to feel strength."
Working with St Patrick's College, Mr Blenkiron played a key part in connecting survivors. Under the auspices of headmaster John Crowley, the college has issued a formal apology, installed a commemorative garden and developed a wider program of pastoral care.
Mr Blenkiron's wife Clare Linane said he first went public to stop friends taking their own lives. Remembering his first media interview, she said he was violently ill afterwards. "To even go near that school was really challenging for him and had a physical impact. But he just couldn't let it go.
"Peter is so humble. He does it for the right reasons."
This honour is something that I never could have possibly imagined almost 20 years ago when my life first started to fall apartPeter Blenkiron
Mr Blenkiron, who is now prioritising his family and his own health, credits the college with playing a part in his recovery. He paid tribute to the work the school was doing supporting past students.
"St Patrick's College, led by John Crowley, has been a critical part of my healing," he told The Courier.
"I feel humbled and honoured... and my mind jumps to many equally deserving past students and non-past students who have helped make these changes happen."
"This honour is something that I never could have possibly imagined almost 20 years ago when my life first started to fall apart."
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