‘This must not distract us’

STOIC: A group of survivors, including Andrew Collins and Peter Blenkiron, travelled to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give evidence to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in 2016. Picture: Adam Trafford Ballarat clergy sexual abuse survivors hope Cardinal George Pell’s trial will not distract from implementing the royal commission’s recommendations.

Peter Blenkiron, who was abused by disgraced Christian Brother Edward Dowlan, said whether Cardinal Pell was guilty or not was a red herring.

“If we focus on one person, on one issue, then that can distract the whole community and eclipse what really needs to change,” he said.

“We must not take our eyes off the ball and we must make sure all recommendations are implemented.”

The $500 million inquiry is Australia’s longest royal commission, starting in 2013 and due to finish with a final report to the federal government in December.

Chairman Justice Peter McClellan said governments and institutions needed to focus on redress and regulatory changes, “designed to ensure that so far as possible no child is abused in an institutional context in the future”.

Sex abuse survivor Peter Blenkiron

Mr Blenkiron echoed this sentiment following revelations Cardinal Pell had been charged with historical sexual assault offences on Thursday, arguing Ballarat residents must not lose sight of protecting children and preventing more premature deaths.

Fellow survivor Andrew Collins, who travelled with Mr Blenkiron to meet Cardinal Pell during his royal commission testimony in Rome in 2016, said the Catholic Church leader had done little to address Ballarat’s mental health crisis in the two years since.

“The cardinal told us in Rome that he would assist victims, but as yet, nothing has happened,” Mr Collins said.”We are now a little concerned about who will take the mantle.”

Philip Nagle, who was abused by disgraced Christian Brother Stephen Farrell, said Cardinal Pell’s trial would not hinder the recovery of Ballarat survivors. “George hasn’t done anything anyhow,” he said.”It’s very important for the survivors who have made claims against George that this is followed through.”

The Ballarat Courier