A leading detective is hoping the pending extradition of a defrocked pedophile priest from the Diocese of Ballarat will provide a new opportunity for victims to seek help.
Last week United States authorities issued charges for Paul David Ryan, 72, who is currently serving his second jail sentence.
But a detective responsible for one of his successful prosecutions believes there will be even more victims from Ryan's many postings across the diocese including Ballarat North and Ararat.
"There are many more victims of Paul David Ryan living in the community leading quiet, but troubled lives," long-time Warrnambool police detective Colin Ryan said.
"There's no shame in being a victim.
"This is an opportunity to come forward, seek help and support and know your identity is protected."
Ryan is expected to be released on May 20, but could be sent straight to the US to face criminal proceedings.
Ryan was sent by Victorian Catholic church authorities to the US for treatment five times.
Only six of Ryan's victims have ever come forward, but the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse found only one in eight victims reported offending.
Helen Watson's son Peter was a victim of Ryan and took his own life aged 24 in 1999.
Mrs Watson, who raised her family at Tatyoon, south of Ararat, has campaigned for years to encourage victims to come forward.
"It's a very gutsy thing to do," she said of making the decision to seek assistance.
"I've found that the greatest fear for most victims is that their identity will be revealed, but that's now protected by legislation.
"Victims of sex assault cannot be revealed, their identity is completely protected.
"Many victims have an enormous fear factor - they fear being ostracised In their own communities.
"They need to feel safe and supported. Many of those people have lived lives involving addictive behaviour and thought about taking their own lives.
"Losing their faith and trust is a huge factor in their lives, but there is help now available and many people are in a much better place after coming forward and seeking help," she said.
Warrnambool police sex offences and child abuse investigation team Acting Sergeant Sergeant Andy Raven said there were specialised officers to help victims of sex assault.
"These officers are specially trained in assisting victims. Victims of historical sex abuse can go to support services like CASA (the Centre Against Sexual Assault) and then to us or we can refer them," he said.
"There is support available. There is help to deal with the many issues caused by historical sex assaults," he said.
Colin Ryan investigated the defrocked priest Ryan in the early 2000s, which led to him first being convicted in 2006 and an 18-month jail sentence imposed in relation to two Penshurst victims.
Paul David Ryan was jailed again in mid 2019 for 26 months, with a minimum 17 months to serve, in relation to two Warrnambool victims and another boy from Ararat.
The pedophile was originally kicked out of the Adelaide seminary in 1971, but took up a teaching position in Mildura the same year and was later ordained in 1975.
Ryan then served in north Ballarat that year, where he abused another boy, who's mother complained to church authorities.
In 1976 Ryan was staying in Clayton with alleged pedophile priest Ronald Pickering.
Ryan was first sent to the US for treatment in 1977, but in 1978 he was back working in the Ballarat diocese for 12 months before another trip overseas, during which he is now alleged to have abused children.
In April 1980 Ryan started a five-year stint as an assistant priest at Warrnambool's St Joseph parish and acted as a chaplain at the boys only Christian Brothers College.
In January 1986 Ryan was appointed assistant priest at Terang, where he ran a youth group and by January 1989 he was upgraded to parish priest at Penshurst - where he was unsupervised.
In February 1991 the Ballarat diocese received a complaint that Ryan had molested a Penshurst schoolboy, described by then Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns as "impudent conduct".
At Easter that year Ryan was appointed relieving priest in the Ararat Parish.
On September 24, 1991, Bishop Mulkearns wrote a letter to Ryan, who was then back in the US, stating that he had received a new sex abuse complaint concerning Ryan's time at CBC.
That victim had himself been charged with sex offences.
"I am sorry to have to report this incident. But, obviously there is the potential for some scandal if the statement to police was made and the accusation was serious and is taken up in the course of a court case," Bishop Mulkearns wrote.
Ryan was then appointed an assistant priest at Ararat from January 1992.
The 1992 Catholic Directory had Ryan and prolific Western Victorian pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale listed as being "on leave".
In December 1992 Bishop Mulkearns wrote to American church authorities, the St Luke Institute in Maryland, which has been described as a refuge for priests with sexual problems, seeking to have Ryan work in the US.
Bishop Mulkearns said it was "scarcely possible" for Ryan to continue working in Ararat, especially as a chaplain at the Ararat prison where the former CBC schoolboy was then serving a jail sentence.
Ryan went to the US where he was advised to cut down his drinking, but he was unable to gain admission to the institute's program.
He returned to Australia in 1993, spending time in Perth and at Warrnambool in private accommodation as well as travelling to England to see Father Pickering.
In July 1994 Father Brian Finnigan signed an employment separation certificate in which a box was ticked: "Unsuitability for this type of work".
Last week The Courier also carried the story that barrister David O'Brien, previously of Penshurst and an Upper House member of State Parliament for Western Victoria, has been involved in eight $1 million plus Supreme Court writ settlements this year involving the clergy sex abuse.
Compensation lawyers Arnold Thomas and Becker principal Lee Flanagan said Mr O'Brien was the pre-eminent barrister for clergy sex abuse victims seeking compensation.
He described Mr O'Brien as a pedophile hunter, with a unique background, who worked crazy hours to pursue compensation for victims and his firm used Mr O'Brien in all clergy abuse cases.
If you need help, contact:
- Lifeline 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467