A Castlemaine woman was left deflated after a local Catholic church removed ribbons she had strung to symbolise support for victims of child sexual abuse.
Melinda Webster said she tied ribbons in pink, green, red and purple, with tags explaining their meaning, to the front entrance at St Mary’s Catholic Parish in Castlemaine last week, only to return two hours later and find them gone.
Ms Webster said she was “not surprised, but disappointed” by the ribbons being removed from the church so swiftly.
Two years ago, at the age of 50, her own husband disclosed his own history of abuse in an interstate boarding school.
Father Wahid Riad of St Mary’s in Castlemaine said he had not removed the ribbons, although some of his parishioners had mentioned them to him and they may have taken them down.
Ms Webster said the gesture was not aimed at that particular church or priest, but emerged from a feeling of frustration and hopelessness after revelations during the Royal Commission.
“We need to stop and think about families and victims, the people that have taken their own lives,” Ms Webster said.
“We realise now it is rampant … it’s a horrible, ugly, terrible thing to talk about.
“But too many children have suffered in silence for too long.”
She said she had been thanked via social media for her move, and she said if even one person felt they were listened to and believed, it was worthwhile.
Father Riad the ribbons had been strung up without his knowledge and although he was unaware of their meaning, he wanted to support victims.
“I wasn't sure what it was about … no one asked permission or approached me,” he said.
“But we're happy to be in solidarity with the victims and do anything that would be helpful to them.
“I'm very supportive of those lovely, wonderful people who are still hurting.”
He urged concerned community members to approach him and hoped he could work with them to honour victims of abuse at the hands of the clergy.
“We need to work together for healing and compassion,” he said.
The ribbons were an idea replicated from the original “Loud Fence” in Ballarat, which saw the front fence of the former St Alipius Boys' School site covered in bright ribbons to remember victims of institutional abuse.