Royal Commission in Ballarat: Day Three

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continued Case Study 28 today, a public hearing into a number of institutions run by the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Ballarat.

Each day, Catholic Talk will provide a brief summary of the proceedings of that day.

For a summary of yesterday’s proceedings, click here.

[Editor note: this is only a brief summary of the proceedings, the witness testimony obviously contains much more detail.  For full transcripts, you can click here each day.]

Paul Tatchell

Mr Tatchell was a student at St Patrick’s College, Ballarat.  On his first night at the school, he noticed Br Ted Dowlan walking between the beds of the boys in his dormitory, apparently kissing them.  He told the Commission that he was suspicious of Dowlan from that time.  He told the Commission that he was physically and sexually assaulted by Dowlan, but fought back.  He has been an advocate for the vulnerable ever since, and is currently the Mayor of Warranambool Shire.

Stephen Woods

Stephen Woods attended St Alipius Boys School, and told the Commission that he was physically and sexually abused there by Brother Best, by Brother Dowlan at St Patrick’s College and raped by Gerald Ridsdale, who he had sought to confide in about his sexuality.  He has been deeply affected by the abuse, with complete, complex post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems.  He told the Commission that he grieves for his lost childhood, his lost career and his lost life.  He also said that his mother was terribly ostracised by the local Catholic community after he went public about his abuse.

Francis Sheehan

Mr Sheehan is the President of Moving Towards Justice, a community of lay Catholics which aims to reach out to survivors of child sexual abuse.  Even though the membership includes clergy and religious, the group is intentionally independent of any Diocese.  Mr Sheehan told the Commission of various initiatives undertaken by the group to assist survivors, and said they would welcome others contacting them.  They hope to have a permanent memorial for victims and survivors erected in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

Andrea Lockhart

Ms Lockhart is the senior counsellor at the Centre Against Sexual Assault in Ballarat.  She told the Commission that the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term, and survivors cannot simply forget about it.  She said that it affects relationships, intimacy, the sense of self-worth, employment and can lead to substance abuse.  She also spoke about the prevailing thought that abusive men will abuse others, and said that this is damaging because it scares abuse survivors into not holding their own children.  She suggested that counselling sessions should be unlimited, and that a survivor should not have to argue or make difficult applications for counselling, because many are reluctant to exercise their rights given the trauma of their past.  She told the Commission that the engagement with the Christian Brothers and the Diocese has been positive.


BAQ attended St Alipius Boys School, where, he told the Commission, he was sexually abused by Br Fitzgerald and Br Farrell, and by Gerald Ridsdale.  He said that the knowledge of Fitzgerald’s abuse of boys on the final school picnic to Lake Burrumbeet at the end of the year was known even by students not at the school, so he found it inconceivable that others in authority did not know.  He told the Commission that one of the effects of the abuse was that he does not have any close male friends, and he considered that to be a real loss.

Andrew Collins

Andrew Collins told the Commission that he was raped at his first primary school by a Seventh Day Adventist teacher, by the priest who gave him instruction for Confirmation, by Brother Adrian (a Redemptorist Brother at the Monastery where his family attended Mass), and sexually abused by Br Peter Toomey at St Patrick’s College.  Since going public with his story, Mr Collins said that he had been rejected by his family, who consider that he is making the story up.  He said that this has deprived his children of knowing his side of the family.  He also told the Commission that Bishop Paul Bird of Ballarat said that the Diocese could not fulfil his request of funding $252 per week for every survivor of abuse, as it would bankrupt the Church, which would endure after the survivors were deceased.  Bishop Bird will appear before the Commission in the coming weeks and will undoubtedly be asked to respond to this accusation.

The hearing will continue tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 09:58 Written by 


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in CathTalk blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of all members of that of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.