Apology to abuse victims

APOLOGY: Dr Anne Wenham delivers a public apology to the victims of historic sexual assaults at St Stanislaus' College on Friday night.
APOLOGY: Dr Anne Wenham delivers a public apology to the victims of historic sexual assaults at St Stanislaus' College on Friday night.

THE history of Bathurst’s St Stanislaus’ College has been forever blemished, head of college Dr Anne Wenham told a public forum on Friday night as she delivered an apology to victims of historic sexual assaults at the school.

Around 100 people attended the Apology Service of Sorrow and Hope held at the school, including victims, their families and a number of supporters.

In the lead-up victims expressed concerns about the service being a trigger for them and while it was clear many struggled through the service, afterwards victims and their families said they felt the apology was heartfelt.

Media had initially been banned but Dr Wenham reversed that on Friday at the request of victims, and allowed journalists to attend.

For one victim, whose identity remains suppressed by the courts, attending the apology gave him a sense of being able to move forward.

“It won’t heal what happened but I agree with what she said and I do think it will help me move forward and bring healing,” he said.

“It’s not something that will happen overnight, but for me it was a step forward.”

Carole Nielsen, whose son Tor was the whistle blower who sparked a police investigation into historic cases of abuse, attended with her husband Wayne.

She found the chanting [singing] very hard to take.

“But I have to say, I found Dr Wenham’s apology very heartfelt. I appreciated her words,” Mrs Nielsen said.

Mr Nielsen said: “You could hear it in her voice, it was heartfelt.”

Dr Wenham acknowledged the service would not bring the healing and peace the victims deserved but said she hoped it could be a step towards healing.

Dr Wenham said the school’s history was, and always would be, blemished.

“Our college community lives with the knowledge of sexual abuse that happened to young men in its care. In this our 150th year, it’s time to say sorry.” She said the abuse was a disgrace and the school “does not and will not hide from this. I express despair, horror, sadness and sorrow at the actions of some members of staff and I sincerely hope this apology is a step towards healing and we can begin to establish trust where trust was broken, establish hope where it was diminished and destroyed.”