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Ballarat Journal: Australian Mining Town Breaks Its Silence About Grim Past of Sexual Abuse

April 29, 2018

“There are more ribbons on the fence now than there was before,” said Frank Sheehan, a former state lawmaker from Ballarat.

Finding its voice has helped Ballarat become something even more. Just as the rush to find gold transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station into a major mining settlement, the new willingness to speak out about the abuse scandal has turned Ballarat from a closed, conservative former mining town and industrial city into a more tolerant and inclusive community.

Belinda Coates, the city’s former deputy mayor, said she had seen a shift, with many major organizations here now choosing female leaders.

Ballarat Journal: Australian Mining Town Breaks Its Silence About Grim Past of Sexual AbuseBallarat Journal: Australian Mining Town Breaks Its Silence About Grim Past of Sexual Abuse

Ballarat is the first city in Australia to join the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Network, a statement of intent to become a more culturally diverse and welcoming community, as also seen in Ballarat’s acceptance of a growing number of new immigrants from countries including Sudan and Afghanistan.

“There’s a bit of a quiet revolution going on in Ballarat,” Ms. Coates said.

“When you start to challenge the status quo, it ripples out into the community,” she added. “More people are finding their voices.”

But this transformation is in large part because of a great tragedy. Residents and former victims hope an impending court decision on whether Cardinal Pell should stand trial for “historical sexual offenses” will help Ballarat find some closure.

“We’re all waiting on a decision,” said Mr. Walsh, who refused to shake the cardinal’s hand on the street. “The Catholic Church has just really got to change. It’s as simple as that.”

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