The appointment of John Crowley as acting principal at St Kevin's College - the Melbourne secondary school that was the subject of an damning Four Corners expose earlier this week - came as a shock but not a surprise.
Even those close to Mr Crowley among Ballarat survivors as well as colleagues St Patrick's College were taken unaware by the announcement. A press release from Edmund Rice Education Australia, the umbrella foundation for both schools as well as 51 others across the country, went out at lunchtime on Wednesday.
It signalled the end of Mr Crowley's five-year tenure at the historic Ballarat Catholic college with immediate effect.
But as soon as people had a moment to process the news it seemed to make sense. Mr Crowley's reputation as a courageous leader - often in the face of fierce resistance - and a conduit for profound cultural change goes before him. As more than one Ballarat survivor pointed out to The Courier, Mr Crowley would have seemed "the obvious choice" for St Kevin's, the Toorak school with its leadership and culture now under unprecedented scrutiny.
This is how people who have worked closely with Mr Crowley in Ballarat, as survivors, advocates and Old Collegians, view his influence and legacy at St Patrick's, the wider Ballarat community - and his likely impact at his new workplace.
For many years, Peter Blenkiron was one of the most forthright and outspoken of survivor advocates in Ballarat. A former student at St Patrick's College, where he was abused in the 1970s, he has deliberately stepped back from the media spotlight in recent years to concentrate on more below-the-radar projects, but he is more than happy to make an exception for John Crowley.
He begins by telling The Courier that he had contacted Mr Crowley on Wednesday morning - without knowing about his new role - following the fall-out from the Four Corners documentary which aired on Monday.
"I sent him a message this morning saying: 'I am just so grateful you came to Ballarat from Ararat, and you are the sort of man you are.'
"John's helped develop a pastoral care program for students and past students and their families.
"If John can get in there, and help turn the ship in the right direction, that can be a catalyst for massive change right across the whole community.
"If he can replicate what he's done at St Pat's at St Kevin's hopefully he can not only help those children that are damaged but also help those that are there learn good examples of what it is like to be a good human being.
"He's supported myself and some other schools in Ballarat, CFA Junior department, sharing knowledge, starting important conversations about how we do this differently, what lessons we can learn.
"He's supported the whole healing of Ballarat, not just of St Pat's.
"It would be nice to be able to clone him, but I am sure his influence at St Pat's won't stop because he's helping another school do what he's already done here.
"I imagine it will be difficult, but I am sure he will still have an important connection with St Pat's.
"When John has copped flak from some of the people in the community because he has done what hasn't been popular thing to do, those same people look back and say 'he was a trailblazer'.
"He reached out to survivors and said 'let's try and rebuild trust, let's try and change this' and he started that change. It takes a good person to be able to rebuild trust and undo some of that pain from the past.
Louise Milligan, journalist and broadcaster
The presenter of the Four Corners documentary has been an outspoken critic of the culture at St Kevin's, was quick to welcome the announcement.
Previously Ms Milligan has been vocal in her support for the principal, who has been at the school since 2015.
"He is an honourable man who has done much behind the scenes to assist survivors," she wrote last year.
"John Crowley has done more than anyone else I can think of, at great personal expense, to walk with survivors and call out Church hierarchy. Including removing honours to Pell at St Pat's. John is a very good man and I applaud his work."
Allan McKinnon, President, St Patrick's College old boys' association
"John is the ideal person to do what he is going to do. He's been very successful in bringing about healing and reconciliation. I think that the St Pat's community would realise that and I think the wider Ballarat community would realise that and they would probably hold him in the highest esteem. What he has done in recent years is to bring about reconciliation and the support of the victims and survivors of abuse is just extraordinary. The fact that he has had a book written about him is testament to that ['Changemakers' by Shaun Carney]."
He's gone into a space where not many people would go and he's met it head on. What he's done has been rather extraordinary.
"He's been wonderful. He is a compassionate, caring man. He always puts the interests of the present students above everything else. I have had personal experience of him showing compassion and care, and he is exemplary in the way he has done that.
"I think what he's done has been embedded. The whole school community will carry on. There's no way anything will regress. The fact that he was brave enough to make a public apology on the steps of the school - all that has been done, and is really well embedded in the school culture.
"[He's been able to do this] because of his own philosophical beliefs in what is good and right. He's a highly principled man with a deep spirituality and he has a good deal of empathy and understanding of what it's like to be marginalised.
"You must remember when he became the principal of St Pat's, it was when the Royal Commission was starting. He came into a volcano really. He's gone into a space where not many people would go and he's met it head on.
"He's raised the profile of the school. What he's done has been rather extraordinary really."
Phil Nagle, survivor and former St Patrick's College student
"John's role was critical. He was dropped right in the middle of it all. He got on the front foot. He waded his way through all the mess that had been created and did something about it."
"He was just a real inspiration to everyone. John's definitely left a legacy there that will stay. He put good solid mechanisms in place. He's certainly probably the only man to be able to go down and sort out somewhere like St Kevin's. He will take those same sort of values and the things that he's learned up here and he will put them in place down there as well. Unfortunately St Kevin's has ended up pretty messy. That's what happens when you don't have the right people at the helm.
It was only because of that friendship with John that I was able to overcome that fear and step back on the school grounds.
"He is just an absolutely amazing man, he really is. For what he's done for Ballarat, particularly St Pat's, it's just incredible. He's one out of the box, that's for sure.
"It's what he taught those boys up there, that influence he had over the school. He's a very gracious man and he's been 100 per cent supportive. I honestly never thought I would [go back to the school]. I kept away from it for a good 40 years. It was only because of that friendship with John that I was able to overcome that fear and step back on the school grounds. I had a tour around there. He made me feel very comfortable and welcome.
"He stood up and copped it on the chin and he did something about it. No-one else was doing that. He will be remembered for that forever, and he will be admired by everyone. It's pretty incredible.
"The Edmund Rice foundation would [have been] looking for a number one man to get down there and bring the stable influence that they need. John Crowley is definitely the man. He's the obvious choice to go down there and get things on track."
Maureen Hatcher, Loud Fence founder
"He inherited a school that was in a bit of disarray. He was really thrown in. What he's managed to achieve is a true credit to him."
"I have got nothing but respect for him. He's done an amazing job. I think he's been an inspiration, he's been one of the true leaders in amongst all this murkiness. He really has stood out as a leader. He will be really sorely missed in this community. What he's managed to achieve is really incredible.
But he understood. He listened to survivors and he knew the importance of acknowledging what had happened at that college.
"He's been a great person to be working with. It must be pretty difficult to work with an organisation such as Loud Fence because we are seen as more of a protest. But he understood. He listened to survivors and he knew the importance of acknowledging what had happened at that college. He's put such great procedures and protocol in place that hopefully the next person will be able to keep raising that flag.
"I feel like [St Kevin's] are probably going in the right direction with the appointment. The good thing is, it means they have done their homework. They couldn't have picked anyone better really."
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