Child sex abuse survivors from Ballarat have called on the prime minister to commit to a national redress scheme.
The Victorian group arrived home on Sunday after a crowd-funded trip to Rome to witness Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“A lot of people might think this is the end of our journey. It’s not,” abuse survivor Andrew Collins told reporters at Melbourne Airport.
He said clerical abuse in Ballarat – including that by Australia’s worst pedophile priest, Gerard Ridsdale – and its long-term effects on victims highlighted the importance of supporting survivors.
“We call on the Turnbull government to put into place the redress scheme that the royal commission has put forward,” Mr Collins said.
“The longer he holds off, the more people will die.”
David Ridsdale – who was abused by his uncle Gerard Ridsdale – said the group was disappointed it did not get the chance to meet with Pope Francis.
“It’s the Pope’s loss,” he said, after the Vatican stated it never received the group’s request for a meeting.
Following Cardinal Pell’s testimony, the Vatican said the “sensationalist” media coverage of the hearing gave the impression the Catholic Church had done little or nothing to address the issue of clergy sex abuse, when that was not the case.
The Catholic Church also praised Cardinal Pell for his “dignified and coherent” personal testimony, and the willingness of survivors to engage with the Vatican.
Mr Ridsdale said none of the survivors were satisfied with Cardinal Pell’s evidence or the Catholic Church’s response to it.
“You’ve got to be a delusional human being to even imagine that’s the truth,” he said.
“A very small step was made, but none of us felt that the evidence he gave was representative of the man we met in the room.”
A meeting in Rome between Cardinal Pell and abuse survivors after the hearing ended with Australia’s highest ranking Catholic churchman promising to work with the Ballarat community to set up a centre to support victims.
In September, the commission recommended a national redress scheme, estimated to cost $4.3 billion over 10 years and underwritten by the federal government.
The scheme would be largely funded by the institutions in which the abuse occurred, but should be run by an independent board under the auspices of the federal government to ensure equity for all survivors, it said.
Labor has pledged its support for a national redress scheme.
The federal government has said it will work with states and territories to develop a nationally consistent redress scheme, with the main responsibility residing with the jurisdiction where the offence took place, not the Commonwealth.