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.
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]