PRINCIPALS of Catholic schools have apologised to survivors and victims of sexual abuse inflicted on students at their schools.
Edmund Rice Education Australia led a “National Ritual of Apology” for victims of historic abuse at schools run by the Christian Brothers.
Those schools include Brisbane’s St Joseph’s Nudgee College; St Laurence’s College; and St James College.
EREA has responsibility for more than 50 Catholic schools and entities across Australia, some of which were previously governed by the Christian Brothers.
These schools are now governed by Edmund Rice Education Australia.
In a special session of the organisation’s national principals’ conference in Canberra on June 1, chief executive Dr Wayne Tinsley read a statement of acknowledgement and regret, with school principals endorsing each point.
“Today we begin a journey of major change by publicly acknowledging the sexual abuse of students in our schools, some dead, some above, some unknown,” he said.
“Today we directly acknowledge the scarring harm of sexual abuse abhorrent, sinful, shameful and disgraceful.
“And we also acknowledge that whatever was done can never be undone.”
Dr Tinsey said he hoped the apology demonstrated that “we have listened to survivors and acted on their views, thoughts and feelings”.
“It is our hope that this apology will go some way to addressing and healing this long-standing omission and hurt,” he said.
Dr Tinsey said EREA realised its apology was just one step in the journey towards healing.
“As today’s stewards of our values, we acknowledge this is part of a destructive and shameful reality in our national history and we are totally committed to it never happening again,” he said.
“We hope this apology will help in the healing process and be a step towards re-establishing trust.”
Dr Tinsey said EREA would continue to support the provision of care for survivors.
“Since its inception in 2007, EREA has made the protection of children from abuse a priority and has committed to ongoing accountability, integrity and due care in its schools,” he said.
“Our commitment to providing a safe, supportive, caring environment for students is reinforced by strong moral and legal obligations which underpin all of EREA’s policies.”
Dr Tinsey said the national event also marked the beginning of a series of apologies around Australia with EREA schools and their communities planning their own local ceremonies.
“EREA schools around Australia will mark this day in their own way throughout this year,” he said.