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First steps, long road

Detailsfor turningBallarat into a healing centre may not yet have formedbut survivors, supporters and the church are unanimous about the need for such a centre to help stem the damaging legacy of sexual abuse.
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The idea spoken of by Ballarat survivors in the international media this weekgained momentum with high profile support but underlying it is anenormous ongoing demand for these services in the region.

Phil Nagle was among a group of child abuse survivors who met Cardinal Pell and he said the discussion was focused on the future not the past.

He also requested a separate private meeting with the Cardinal to discuss the abuse he suffered at the hands of disgraced paedophile priest Stephen Farrell when he was a grade five pupil and the devastating ripple effects his sex crimes had on his classmates.

Cardinal Pell in a public address said the church must work to end the suicides that have afflicted so many victims.

Mr Nagle who was in Rome honouring his 12 fellow St Alipius Christian Brothers Primary School pupils who have committed suicide or died prematurely – out of a class of 33, said he had discussed this with Cardinal Pell.

“We talked about counselling, we talked about care, we talked about what the future’s going to be for our survivors and how the Church is going to help with that from George’s level down.”

The end of the Rome hearings also marks the beginning for more work for support services. Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) manager Shireen Gunn said the abuse survivors will need ongoing support when they return from an emotionally draining visit to Rome.

“Ballarat is absolutely leading the way (in healing). These men been have been with CASA for some time and they’ll need a lot of support when they return,” Ms Gunn said.

Carolyn Worth, spokesperson for the CASA Forum, said the demand for help of this kind has spiked dramatically since Cardinal Pell took the stand, with serious inquiries jumping by almost 15 per cent in one week.

“We used to think one month was an unreasonable wait time. But now in a number of locations around the state we have wait times of two and three months, and others with wait times of five months. It just doesn’t stop,” Ms Worth said

In Ballarat alone, more than 30 people have made meaningful contact with CASA in the past fortnight – a 25 per cent increase on the already high numbers coming forward.

Ballarat mayor Des Hudson has also backedthe idea of a healing centre and said while the city waited for the outcomes of the hearings they would continue to support the survivors including holding a civic reception when they returned from Rome.

“I think that will be theopportunity for us to sit down with the survivors and actually engage in a dialogue as to how Ballarat moves forward with their stories never ever being forgotten.”

Loud Fence movement founder Maureen Hatcher who has been instrumental in raising the community profile of many once-silenced of victims, said the Loud Fence community has grown by more than 700 people this week alone. The Ballarat generated idea has now spread across the world.

“The Loud Fence really is loud – there has been too much silence,’ she said.

Ms Hatcher never expected the ribbon tying as a show of community support to reach the Vatican.

“The community response after the last Royal Commission in Ballarat … was everybody saying the same thing – they really wanted to do something and show their support.

“When the guys come back and talk about the foundation (centre), I hope that Loud Fence can be a part of that.”

With Konrad Marshall

NEXT Steps: after the epic hearings of the Royal Commission in Rome the focus will be on support for victims.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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