EMMANUEL College is taking the groundbreaking step of erecting plaques recognising former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns failed to act to protect victims, some who attended the school.
Principal Peter Morgan said there was a long tradition in Australian Catholic schools of inviting the local Bishop to officially open and bless new buildings and extensions.
He said Bishop Mulkearns performed that duty on several occasions within the Warrnambool Catholic community.
“Plaques were affixed to buildings leaving a permanent record of these important occasions," he said
"There are two plaques at Emmanuel College recording the opening of new buildings bearing the name of Bishop Mulkearns."
Mr Morgan said that it was now widely recognised that Bishop Mulkearns failed to act on information and complaints against adults who abused young people in the Ballarat Diocese.
He said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had heard that Bishop Mulkearns was informed of abuses perpetrated on children and he failed to act in a way that would have protected victims.
The principal said that in the near future the College would install two new plaques alongside the two existing plaques to convey the following message:
"Emmanuel College acknowledges the failure of the Ballarat Diocese under the leadership of Bishop Mulkearns to protect children and young people from abuse.
"Emmanuel College stands in solidarity with those people who were physically, emotionally and sexually harmed during this time in our history.
"We acknowledge the devastating impact of abuse upon their lives, including the decision by some to end their lives prematurely.
"We take this stance in the present day to educate children and young people that physical, emotional and sexual abuse will not be tolerated and that we support the victims of such crimes.
"We seek to educate the members of our community to be people of integrity, who care for one another and act when another’s safety is at risk.”
Mr Morgan said Emmanuel College was compelled to act in a way that was consistent with its responsibilities and mission as a place of learning.
"We wish to use this opportunity to acknowledge past failings and educate current and future generations of young people," he said.
"There will be members of the community who believe the plaques should be removed."
However, our decision recognises the importance of taking steps to acknowledge what happened, to learn from the failure and to educate for the future to prevent this happening again.
"By removing the plaques, we may erase history, but this piece of our history needs to be remembered to ensure it is never repeated."
Mr Morgan said Catholic schools today, including Emmanuel College, were very different to those of the past.
"Our schools are safe places in which every student is respected and shares in the joy of learning," he said.
"Our policies and procedures, our employment processes and staff training and our compliance with national standards enable the college to provide a secure and protective community for all.
"Above all, the learning experience in a Catholic school is one that places the dignity of the human person to the fore, shaping and influencing our behaviours, our communications and our care of each other," Mr Morgan said.
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