BALLARAT is a city which has been plagued by a dark history of institutional sexual abuse, but the country fire authority is working towards recognising the abuse which occurred at the hands of one of its officers.
It is the colourful ribbons adorning fences that mark where these abuses took place across the city, including on the fence of the Ballarat CFA Brigade, established in 1856, at Barkly Street, in Ballarat East.
It was a sexual abuse survivor, who wishes to only be known as 'M', who first tied the ribbons to the fence of the 164-year-old station several years ago.
She, along with many others, took their stories of abuse - perpetrated by former Ballarat CFA station officer, a paid employee, Ivor Leslie Harvey - to police.
It was during the early 1980s, when M was a small nine-year-old girl, that the abuse first occurred, but it continued for several years.
Harvey pleaded guilty to the charges and was convicted in 1995. By that time he had already been convicted of other offences involving the abuse of young boys and girls, with others following.
More recently, in 2017, he was convicted of abusing three junior brigade members four decades previously, when he was aged in his 50s.
It was this case that spurred M to tie four ribbons to the fence at the Ballarat Fire Brigade where the majority of abuse occurred.
"I decided to tie four little ribbons to the fence here," she said. "That was because I felt no-one was listening and I was scared that he would get away with it once again and that no-one would hear what had happened to [all of us]."
For so long it had just sort of been brushed aside, there was no acknowledgement, and I, like many others, needed to hear someone say they were sorry and to know that we weren't alone.Survivor, M
The abuse of trust by a person in a position of authority - as he had gained the trust of many families within the brigade as well as colleagues and volunteers to access the children - is what really rocked the community.
"As a young child, we looked up to the role he was in but he manipulated and abused his position in order to abuse us as children," M said.
She said tying the four ribbons to the fence started to bring some acknowledgement of what had occurred at the hands of Harvey, whose actions destroyed the childhoods of many Ballarat children.
M said the gesture was never meant to take away from the work of the past or the 80 current volunteers at the brigade.
It's about one sick individual who hurt and destroyed the lives of many, many kids. And that the CFA as an organisation failed to listen.Survivor, M
"It was to be a voice for people that haven't necessarily had the opportunity to speak out, that may not have found the strength to come forward as yet.
"And so, tying those four little ribbons gave me the opportunity to show others that they were heard, they were believed, and they were not alone."
The CFA formally acknowledged the abuse took place in April 2018.
M, whose family has had a long association with the brigade dating back to her great, great grandfather being a member, entered discussions about a permanent acknowledgement of what had occurred with Ballarat captain Mark Cartledge about 18 months ago.
When the brigade was undertaking upgrades to the old wire fence at the front of the building, there was some concern among survivors that their loud fence would be removed.
But the brigade had the forethought to form a consultative group, with Mr Cartledge and other district members sitting down with three survivors to learn about how they could support them going forward while acknowledging the history of what had occurred.
When the fence was replaced, a portion of what previously stood there was built into the new picketed structure.
Mr Cartledge, who led the process, said it was an honour to work with the survivors and other parts of the CFA throughout the journey.
It's important that we've got to this point and as a brigade, that we've acknowledged the dark history and are there to show support.Ballarat captain Mark Cartledge
A plaque, to be unveiled this Saturday, will sit alongside the loud fence as a symbol of the strength and resilience of the survivors.
Harvey did have significant involvement with the brigade and contributed through developing books on its history, but M said any benefit he brought was undone by the abuse.
This is made clear through his name being struck out on the life membership board after the 2017 conviction.
For M, the permanent acknowledgement is a huge step forward, especially for her own path to healing.
"It means I've finally been believed, despite the fact that he pleaded guilty, I finally feel vindicated," she said.
M hopes the work the CFA is undertaking will change the image of the station in the eyes of survivors.
"For so long, so many people have seen areas of the brigade as being an unsafe space."
She and her friends used to 'blow in' to the station on the way from school because that's just how it was growing up.
"It was our playground and it was a family environment but sadly one person destroyed that for so many," she said.
As a result of listening to survivor's stories, the CFA is working to implement procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of all children participating in its programs to make it a safe place for everyone.
This is being done through a child safety awareness program - planned to be rolled out across all brigades - while the Ballarat Fire Brigade now requires a working with children's check for every member.
M said the various initiatives being put in place by the CFA were helping to make not just Ballarat but all brigades a safe place for future generations.
CFA Commander Anthony Pearce said the abuse was a very sad part of both the brigade's and the wider organisation's history.
"Even though people have moved on, it's still always going to be part of it.
"Unfortunately, this small part of one person's legacy has such a profound impact on the brigade and people associated with it over so many years and going forward. We won't put it past us, but we can move forward knowing that we are doing better.
"We want to be an enjoyable place for all our members, particularly our juniors, and we want members of the community to place their trust and faith in us as an organisation that any one of their family members, whether junior or senior, will be looked after and supported to provide service to the community," he said.
This project alone has been a significant step forward in the organisation to be able to show that we are fair dinkum about acknowledging the past and hoping that in some small way we can help those victims and survivors, not just on this occasion, but on any historical abuse matters.Commander Anthony Pearce
An event will be hosted this Saturday, September 14, at the Ballarat Fire Brigade to unveil the plaque.
M encouraged survivors, including those who had not yet come forward, to attend the event.
"We're all here for each other. When the time is right for them to come forward, the other survivors are here for them. We believe them and they're not alone," she said.
The event will take place from 10am at 20 Barkly Street, Ballarat East, with support from the Centre Against Sexual Assault and other well-being services.
The CFA has established a support service for survivors of historical child sexual abuse through CASA and is also signed up to the national redress scheme.
Harvey died of terminal cancer in late 2018.
if this story has affected you contact CASA on 9594 2289 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.