ORANGE victims and their families are being invited to stand in solidarity with victims of historical sexual abuse in a silent vigil to be held in Bathurst on Friday.
Greens MP and the party’s spokesman on justice, David Shoebridge, who also led the fight for a stand-alone inquiry by the Royal Commission into historical sexual assaults at Bathurst’s St Stanislaus’ College, All Saints’ and The Scots School, said everyone is invited to attend the Centennial Park event.
“I’m coming up to support the victims,” he said, adding he will not be attending the official public apology being held at St Stanislaus later in the evening.
“I certainly won’t be going to any religious ceremony. I find that deeply disrespectful to the victims, and I won’t be part of it.”
Mr Shoebridge said the vigil, which will begin at midday, was a chance for members of the community to show their support to victims, and contrasted that with the official public apology, from which media are banned.
“Unlike Stannies, there is no cloak of secrecy surrounding this event,” he said.
Mr Shoebridge said the simple act of standing alongside victims in solidarity was an extremely powerful gesture for victims who, to date, have been isolated.
He said while the process had been undeniably distressing for all survivors, the silent vigil was a place of focus for victims which was not controlled by St Stanislaus’ College.
“The silent vigil, held separate to St Stanislaus’, will be a place for the community to stand in solidarity with the victims, not the institution that abused them,” he said.
“The St Stanislaus’ apology is an affront to survivors and victims. To centre the apology around a church service and to hold it on the anniversary of their patron saint’s canonisation shows how little respect they have for the students who were abused.
“The Royal Commission has run for four years so you have to ask what will it take for institutions to start prioritising the needs of those they care for, especially children, ahead of their own.
“You can’t apologise until you comprehend the damage you have done, and this is an institution that is still in denial about the scale of the child sexual abuse that it allowed to happen in its dormitories, halls and chapels.
“Survivors and their supporters will not allow the pain and damage to be whitewashed away with a faux apology.
“They will be holding a separate vigil on Friday and they are telling this school that they won’t slip away in silence.
“A pretend apology doesn’t end the trauma suffered by those who were abused and it won’t stop the fight for justice.”