VICTIMS of paedophile Christian Brother Robert Charles Best have backed new calls for an independent inquiry into clergy sexual abuse in Ballarat and around Victoria.
As momentum gathers among clergy and victims’ advocates, a Melbourne lawyer preparing a class action against the Christian Brothers order said she had 45 people registered to take part.
The calls come a day after The Age reported that senior Melbourne Catholic clergy, including an adviser to Archbishop Denis Hart, have called for an independent inquiry into the handling of abuse complaints.
Father Tony Kerin said this week that he had told Archbishop Hart a review would clear the air after more than 300 compensation payouts and the conviction of 60 priests and members of religious orders.
Victim and campaigner Stephen Woods, who was abused as a student in the 1970s, said he would support an inquiry with broad terms of reference. “I have always found that talking about what happened in my past and what these monsters did to us has been cathartic and a wonderful thing,” he said.
“If a hearing or inquest ever happens, it will give the victims and their families a chance to express how they’ve been treated and felt for decades.”
Mr Woods said he was doubtful the Catholic Church would establish an inquiry after years of law suits and convictions.
Melbourne lawyer Dr Vivian Waller said many victims from Ballarat had taken their own lives and an inquiry was overdue.
“If you were a student at St Alipius in Ballarat in the 1970s and you weren’t a victim of sexual abuse, you should consider yourself a statistical anomaly,” she said.
“Ultimately it will be inescapable and the church will be called to account for the alarming number of sex offenders and the less than desirable response they have put in place.”
Dr Waller said the state’s coroner should look at a string of more than 30 suicides of former students from the school.
In February, Justice Phillip Cummins recommended the Victorian Parliament establish a formal investigation into decades of abuse.