The Loud Fence ribbons on the fence of St Patrick's Cathedral signifying support and solidarity for those who suffered abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy will be removed so the historic cast-iron fence surrounding the cathedral can undergo urgent maintenance.
Ballarat bishop Paul Bird has invited members of the Loud Fence movement to work with him to decide the "best way forward" to remove the ribbons to enable maintenance to be carried out.
"As a diocese we are very sensitive to what this issue means for a whole range of people and we want to still stand in solidarity with those who have suffered abuse, not just now but going forward," said Fr Marcello Colasante, vicar general of the Ballarat diocese.
Fr Colasante said a recent inspection of the gothic-style fence had shown "considerable deterioration" and it needed painting.
"The fence ... is highly significant for people of the parish, of the diocese, and the people of Ballarat," he said. "We as its custodian for the time have a responsibility to maintain it and the fence has deteriorated quite significantly in recent years and so it does need attention and work."
During the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2015, the Loud Fence movement began tying ribbons to fences in Ballarat and beyond to show their support of those who suffered abuse.
Loud Fence vice president Mark O'Brien said he was "ecstatic" that Bishop Bird had decided to enter in to conversation about Loud Fence.
He welcomed input in to how the change will maintain the message of the Loud Fence.
"The fence is obviously very important but hopefully the emphasis they give to the fence is much exceeded by their enthusiasm for helping and is ... an opportunity to show how committed they are to the healing process and actually assist survivors to feel welcome and feel validated and to know they have been recognised rather than shunned," Mr O'Brien said.
"The fence needs care and that's great, but so do the people."
In 2017, just days after the findings of the Royal Commission, St Patrick's parishioners stripped ribbons that had been placed on the fence over the previous two and a half years and placed them in a purpose-built box in a memorial garden in the churchyard.
Within hours of their removal, survivors, their supporters and members of the public had tied new ones back.
Mr O'Brien said the active step to talk about the ribbons and how they can be replaced and memorialised was more recognition of the past and the need for, in the present and future, "making sure the sins of the past are never repeated and safety is maintained".
"It's about keeping the conversation going and ... for the church to show true leadership and show what's been done with schools and extensions of the church and their work, and what they can do to continue to commit to this ongoing message and discussion of child safety."
Fr Colasante said no ribbons would be removed before the necessary conversations with Loud Fence and other groups had occurred.
The cast-iron fence, built in the late 1800s, requires maintenance work and repainting with pictures showing areas of rust, damage and damage to the bluestone blocks in the footings of the fence.
Affected by this story? There is help available. You can phone the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, in Sebastopol, on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292. Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.