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Marist rejects sex abuse victim’s call for a memorial plaque : petition launched.

By nquaine - 23 June 2012 59

A call to install a plaque at Marist College Canberra, in remembrance of the victims of sexual abuse at the college over a period spanning three decades, has been rejected by the school.

Nicholas Quaine, himself a former student and victim, proposed the plaque as a permanent warning to future generations of students, reminding them that child sexual abuse is a real threat, that it can happen at their school, that it is wrong and should be reported.

The plaque was discussed at the College Advisory Board meeting on the 22nd of March 2012. Following that meeting, the headmaster and Advisory Board of the college made known their decision to turn down the proposal, citing “unintended negative impact of giving rise to mistrust and fear”.

Canberra Times article and ONLINE PETITION

The plaque and the school’s refusal were the subject of a recent Canberra Times article. An online poll run at that time (1332 participants) revealed that 49% of readers were for such a plaque, versus only 45% against, the remainder being uncertain.

Since the refusal by the school and the Canberra Times article, an online petition has been set up to garner public support for the plaque and pressure the school to reverse their decision.

To access and sign the petition you can follow this link or, alternatively, go to change.org and type “Marist” in the search bar – the petition for the plaque is at the top of the results.

The proposal

The full text of the proposal made to the school :
It is requested that a plaque be placed permanently on the school grounds, placed at eye level and such that it is prominently visible to students, teachers and visitors to the school, and made of sturdy materials. The plaque to carry the following inscription, in large and prominently visible type:


In remembrance of the students who
were victims of sexual abuse in this
school over the years 1970 to 1993.
Lest it ever happen again.

Arguments put forward for the plaque :

  • If there is one thing that the Catholic church should do is confront these issues head on – their constant efforts to hide these issues is only serving to alienate people from them. [Petition supporter]
  • As uncomfortable as this recent history may be for Marist college, it is undeniably more uncomfortable to the students who were sexually abused. Sidorko and the college would do well to remember this. [Letters to the editor, Canberra Times]
  • This plaque would serve as a sober reminder of what can happen when we fail in our duty to protect our most vulnerable citizens – children. [Petition supporter]
  • The advisory board and the headmaster are of the opinion that it would have a “negative” impact on the school body… What they really mean by that is that they want all of these shocking episodes to be buried and forgotten. The fear, the humiliation, the abuse that these students had to endure for decades will never be forgotten, they will have to live with that for ever. [Letters to the editor, Canberra Times]
  • Installing a plaque is the school’s best way of demonstrating to the public it is serious about addressing child sexual abuse. [Petition supporter]
  • It gives dignity to those who suffered and permanently reminds all of us to be forever vigilent. [Petition supporter]
  • The plaque will give students the vocabulary to talk about any inappropriate behaviour, and as such would arm them with the ability to protect themselves. [Nicholas Quaine]
  • It would convince us that the College is mindful and serious about eradicating the scourge of this harmful menace. [Petition supporter]
  • If a plaque assists just one potential future child victim then it is worth installing. [Petition supporter]
  • The plaque will empower students to think, to talk and to question, surely the aim of any good school. [Petition supporter]
  • It is time for transparency, and this plaque will signify that Marist College has taken that step. [Petition supporter]
  • To shine light where it is sadly lacking. [Petition supporter]
  • What happened is an inescapable part of the school’s, and the order’s, legacy… It should never be forgotten. It shouldn’t be papered over by settlements and by saying it all happened in the past. [Petition supporter]
  • It’s my conviction that if such a plaque were in place when I was at the school, I would have either been able to protect myself against the abuse, or I would have spoken up about it. [Nicholas Quaine]

What’s Your opinion?


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59 Responses to
Marist rejects sex abuse victim’s call for a memorial plaque : petition launched.
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nquaine 7:15 pm 28 Jun 12

Baggy said :

While feeling for what you went through and no doubt still endure, I can’t help but see this as a cynical attempt to force a private entity to do something *you* want them to do.

And really, you honestly believe a plaque qould have helped you protect yourself? Fair enough, to each their own. But there has been nothing of the sort happen there for a bloody long time now….

Why would it be seen as any more cynical than any group of victims asking for recognition via a memorial, and hoping that the presence of such a memorial would work in favour of prevention of similar crimes in the future?

And yes, I do believe that a plaque would have helped me realise at the time that what was happening to me was wrong.

You say “there has been nothing of the sort happen there for a bloody long time now”. First of all, I would not call 19 years a long time. And all we know is that there has been nothing reported since then.

So let me ask you a question : do you honestly believe that the scourge of pedophilia has been permanently eradicated because Kostka got arrested and Lyons suicided?

Perhaps future would-be perpetrators would be more wary of operating in a school that has decided to display a permanent warning against sexual abuse. And perhaps would-be future victims might be just that little bit more brave when it comes to protecting themselves.

nquaine 7:02 pm 28 Jun 12

NoImRight said :

Seems a bit like an attempt to punish future generations of teachers who had nothing to do with this. Id try to think of a more positive way to deal with it. Maybe a fund to education on the subject? I have great sympathy for anyone this happened to but I dont see how a plaque will in any practical way stop it happening again.

Education funds are also a good idea. I have never suggested that such a plaque would serve to replace the education of children. I encourage all possible forms of prevention, of which I believe the plaque is one.

On your other point, as previously stated : many children do not speak up about sexual abuse because they are under the impression that they are alone. The silence that dominates all dealings with this kind of abuse only strengthens that impression. The plaque aims to break that silence and let potential future victims know that they are not alone. It will also give them the necessary vocabulary.

Baggy 1:56 pm 27 Jun 12

While feeling for what you went through and no doubt still endure, I can’t help but see this as a cynical attempt to force a private entity to do something *you* want them to do.

And really, you honestly believe a plaque qould have helped you protect yourself? Fair enough, to each their own. But there has been nothing of the sort happen there for a bloody long time now….

NoImRight 12:49 pm 27 Jun 12

Seems a bit like an attempt to punish future generations of teachers who had nothing to do with this. Id try to think of a more positive way to deal with it. Maybe a fund to education on the subject? I have great sympathy for anyone this happened to but I dont see how a plaque will in any practical way stop it happening again.

unclebill 12:31 pm 27 Jun 12

Authorities want us to forget what happened “in the past” look at how long it took the Gubmnt to acknowledge the treatment of the “Forgotten Australians” . Some really bad shit went down in the 60s & 70s that will NEVER be revealed. We are all sooo much better behaved now.

nquaine 5:53 pm 26 Jun 12

weeziepops said :

I have signed the petition and have encouraged others to do so. The victims of these crimes have the right to determine the most appropriate way for Marist to seek to make amends, to the extent that any organisation can make amends for years of systemic abuse. Just as Rudd’s apology was a turning point in recognising the wrongs done to Indigenous Australians, this plaque may also serve as a start towards healing. Congratulations, nquaine, for sticking to what must have been a difficult fight for you and others who were abused. I hope you will keep speaking up on this issue.

You can be assured that I will continue to speak up on this issue despite the fact that it makes a lot of people uncomfortable or even resentful.

In a logical world it should be the victims who have the right to feel resentment. But according to many, we have only the right to shut up.

When a victim decides to hide the truth, he internalises the hurt and it eats away at him. If he does reveal his story, he risks being becoming a pariah or a subject of pity.

When a victim goes that one step further and begins to fight back, he becomes a muckraker and troublemaker. If those are the rules then so be it. I didn’t invent them but I will play hard by them.

My sincerest thanks for your support, and for spreading word of the petition.

I also encourage anyone reading these posts and who favours the idea of the installation of this plaque, to take the time to express your support by also signing the petition : http://www.change.org/petitions/install-a-plaque-in-remembrance-of-victims-of-sexual-abuse-at-marist-college-canberra and by resharing via facebook etc.

Together, the turning point you speak of can be attained.

nquaine 5:26 pm 26 Jun 12

OpenYourMind said :

A very close friend of mine was the victim of abuse at Marist by Kostka during the 80s. While Brother Kostka was the worst kind of human and justice has been served to him, I always get angry just thinking about the way Marist and the Catholic group (varied) have handled this issue back then, right through to today.
The crimes of these people are, to me, even greater than Kostka’s and have gone unpunished. Kostka was known for his vile acts and was tolerated for such a long time and then gently moved sideways. Harsh words, but as far as I am concerned this was a decades long organised pedo ring. To this day the Catholic institution is more interested in protecting its interests than those of the victims. My friend tried so hard back then and through the years to fight, but was, until only recently, unsuccessful.
Given the way the victims have been treated over the years, there is no chance that an acknowledgement such as this plaque will ever be displayed at that site of so many vile acts.

While the Catholics have put a hush on the victims, it would be alarming to hear the victim’s stories and to see the instances of long term harm done to these unfortunate kids who have had to carry those scars into their adult life.

Indeed, if the school does not install the plaque, this will be a strong message that the way victims have been treated over the years has not yet come to an end. Let us hope that the school can muster the humility required to make that change.

It is ironic that humility was one of Christ’s key teachings, and this was taught to us repeatedly at the school. Now that it is time to put words into practice, there is no one to be found.

weeziepops 7:50 am 26 Jun 12

I have signed the petition and have encouraged others to do so. The victims of these crimes have the right to determine the most appropriate way for Marist to seek to make amends, to the extent that any organisation can make amends for years of systemic abuse. Just as Rudd’s apology was a turning point in recognising the wrongs done to Indigenous Australians, this plaque may also serve as a start towards healing. Congratulations, nquaine, for sticking to what must have been a difficult fight for you and others who were abused. I hope you will keep speaking up on this issue.

Lookout Smithers 11:37 pm 25 Jun 12

nquaine said :

Lookout Smithers said :

I am all for a plaque that remembers the victims of abuse. I don’t think that it needs to be at the site where it took place. I think that it could be anywhere but. This leads me to look at not what is being asked for, but why. I think that there may be an unhealthy sentiment lurking here. Victims don’t always remain as such complete with that title. There is a point where they choose to no longer identify as victims.

The alternative of a plaque elsewhere has been considered. But as I have stated in other posts, the intention is not to hurt the school, and placing a plaque off grounds would be perceived as just that. In proposing the plaque be installed on the school grounds, the school has been offered the opportunity to have some level of control. I think that is fair.

As for the existence of unhealthy sentiments, all things considered, how can there be an absence of such? Nevertheless, the merits of a plaque will, or will not, stand on their own, regardless of my sentiments. That is one reason for the public call for support.

I agree that the Plaque will stand on its own merits. The public will no doubt support anything in favour of the victims of sexual abuse, regardless of what is intended by the plaque. So you should have no trouble there. Why would the school want to have any level of control over the proposal when they can just say no? The idea is considerate and has value. I just am not convinced that the site for the plaque is really that significant an issue. Just so long as there is a plaque. I would place the plaque where it there is the most traffic of people walking into it. I think that way it can serve as to create awareness as well as remembering those directly affected by it historically. Perhaps my phrasing was not really appropriate. What I meant was that by any need to have the plaque cemented at the school can perhaps be seen as somewhat vindictive or unhealthy insomuch as having not over come some issues, albeit understandable.

OpenYourMind 10:44 pm 25 Jun 12

A very close friend of mine was the victim of abuse at Marist by Kostka during the 80s. While Brother Kostka was the worst kind of human and justice has been served to him, I always get angry just thinking about the way Marist and the Catholic group (varied) have handled this issue back then, right through to today.
The crimes of these people are, to me, even greater than Kostka’s and have gone unpunished. Kostka was known for his vile acts and was tolerated for such a long time and then gently moved sideways. Harsh words, but as far as I am concerned this was a decades long organised pedo ring. To this day the Catholic institution is more interested in protecting its interests than those of the victims. My friend tried so hard back then and through the years to fight, but was, until only recently, unsuccessful.
Given the way the victims have been treated over the years, there is no chance that an acknowledgement such as this plaque will ever be displayed at that site of so many vile acts.

While the Catholics have put a hush on the victims, it would be alarming to hear the victim’s stories and to see the instances of long term harm done to these unfortunate kids who have had to carry those scars into their adult life.

nquaine 10:08 pm 25 Jun 12

Wily_Bear said :

Nquaine, you ought to be lauded for your bravery in refusing to hide from this. I believe you are owed a debt of gratitude for your attempts to prevent further exploitation of children.

I can however, see how Marist would feel uncomfortable with a plaque on the school grounds. Perhaps they would be more open to the idea of you taking a ‘Kony 2012’ style approach, using all those $18,000 noticeboards outside local supermarkets and bus interchanges as an alternative?

Firstly, thank you for your support and encouragement.

As you imply, the school installing a plaque as proposed is, for them, the least risky of many alternatives. But what I would really like to see is the school embracing the idea for the positive aspects that a plaque could bring, rather than them concentrating on potential negative aspects of not installing it.

nquaine 10:01 pm 25 Jun 12

Lookout Smithers said :

I am all for a plaque that remembers the victims of abuse. I don’t think that it needs to be at the site where it took place. I think that it could be anywhere but. This leads me to look at not what is being asked for, but why. I think that there may be an unhealthy sentiment lurking here. Victims don’t always remain as such complete with that title. There is a point where they choose to no longer identify as victims.

The alternative of a plaque elsewhere has been considered. But as I have stated in other posts, the intention is not to hurt the school, and placing a plaque off grounds would be perceived as just that. In proposing the plaque be installed on the school grounds, the school has been offered the opportunity to have some level of control. I think that is fair.

As for the existence of unhealthy sentiments, all things considered, how can there be an absence of such? Nevertheless, the merits of a plaque will, or will not, stand on their own, regardless of my sentiments. That is one reason for the public call for support.

Postalgeek 9:33 pm 25 Jun 12

Well if nothing else I think your run of posts in row deserves a plaque. 9 by my count, and if I-filed hadn’t piped up, it could’ve been 13.

That’s got to be some kind of record on this forum.

Wily_Bear 9:14 pm 25 Jun 12

Nquaine, you ought to be lauded for your bravery in refusing to hide from this. I believe you are owed a debt of gratitude for your attempts to prevent further exploitation of children.

I can however, see how Marist would feel uncomfortable with a plaque on the school grounds. Perhaps they would be more open to the idea of you taking a ‘Kony 2012’ style approach, using all those $18,000 noticeboards outside local supermarkets and bus interchanges as an alternative?

Lookout Smithers 9:01 pm 25 Jun 12

I am all for a plaque that remembers the victims of abuse. I don’t think that it needs to be at the site where it took place. I think that it could be anywhere but. This leads me to look at not what is being asked for, but why. I think that there may be an unhealthy sentiment lurking here. Victims don’t always remain as such complete with that title. There is a point where they choose to no longer identify as victims.

nquaine 7:27 pm 25 Jun 12

I-filed said :

How about a plaque that looks to a better future for the school?

On xxxx 2012, Marist College apologised formally to its victims who suffered at the school in earlier years, and commited in perpetuity to never again allowing, tolerating or condoning sexual abuse or a culture of bullying.

If it is only the wording that has caused the school to reject this proposal, they have not made any statement to that effect, or suggested alternate wordings.

Personally, I am open to any suggestions. Essential would be that we see evidence of culture change, that the victims are respected, and especially that children can understand the message that they should speak up about any inappropriate behaviour.

nquaine 7:19 pm 25 Jun 12

The_TaxMan said :

Firstly as a founding member of BACA in Australia (look it up) I abhore child abuse in any form and the perpetrators should be dealt with far more harshly than they are, all I need is ten minutes with them and a truck battery. To believe that erecting a plague in a school drawing attention to the fact that Priests abused children there almost 40 years ago will have anything other than a negative impact on that school and it’s current and future students is quite frankly ilconsidered & idiotic. Whilst any abuse is unacceptable please lets remember that in one year in NSW:

Notified cases of child abuse –
New notifications 14,387 (7914 substantiated)
Total of notified children 19,022
(NB 12,549 cases overall were substantiated all under the age of 16.)

How many plaques shall we put up people, if we extrapolate the above figures out we would be talking of over 25,000 children abused per year Australia wide and that is TODAY not in 1970-1973

If a petition was able to enforce the placing of a plaque of this nature at the school I can assure you it would not be there for long before it was removed.

How many plaques? If I had my way there would be a plaque in every school in the country. It just so happens that Marist is the only place I have any foothold. That would also overcome the problem that Marist College Canberra might feel stigmatised if they were the only one with a plaque.

The figures you quote only go further to prove how big a problem this is. But I fail to see upon what you base your claim that such a plaque can have no benefit to the former victims, or current and future students.

A plaque may be defaced or removed by vandals, but the public statement made by the school in installing it would be a lasting one as it would prove that the school’s culture has changed.

nquaine 7:08 pm 25 Jun 12

AG Canberra said :

p1 said :

But the physical building, and the current and future body of students and teachers did not commit this crime, and I can’t help feel they will be “punished” somehow by this.

Ah yes but it is the current Principal and executive that are fighting compensation claims. Instead of admitting the wrong, paying out the compensation and moving on – they are forcing the victims through another round of pain and suffering – to save a few dollars. Not very Christian…..

I cannot agree more.

In the school’s reaction to my statement to the Canberra times they claimed that the college “moved swiftly to resolve the claims of the victims”.

I have just recently finalised a 4 year legal case against the Marist Brothers during which they sought to defend themselves in the most underhanded and time-consuming ways, even going so far as to claim before the ACT supreme court that they were not responsible for the running of the school.

They have said this over and over, that they are moving swiftly, that they are doing their best to help the victims, etc, etc.

As JFK once said, “No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.”

nquaine 7:03 pm 25 Jun 12

Thumper said :

Rather than a plaque, a somewhat trivial and feelgood statement, how about putting the time, effort and money into investigating the persons alleged to have committed the crimes and/ or ensuring that it never again happens.

As a former victim I can personally attest to the fact that the plaque would not be trivial. Further proof of its non-triviality is the passion evident behind the reactions, from both sides, to its proposal.

Again, the plaque would be only one piece of a multi-faceted strategy of education and prevention.

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