Survivors of child abuse have urged a royal commission to hold public hearings in regional Victoria to allow them to tell their stories in their local community.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has held a number of public hearings in Melbourne since it was established in early 2013, but hearings in regional areas have been conducted behind closed doors.
Abuse survivor John Coon used a private hearing in Melbourne to share his experience of being molested at the Ballarat Orphanage as a 10 year old.
Mr Coon said it was important the local community also knew what happened.
“An open hearing would do the world of good because people will know exactly what you went through,” Mr Coon said.
“It’s a damn good idea for everybody to know what is going on.”
The commission has private hearings scheduled for regional areas from the end of January but has not released details of the planned locations.
Lawyer Penny Savidis said many of her clients in regional Victoria wanted them to be made public.
“Many of the worst institutions in Victoria were based in those districts and survivors have told us that they would prefer to deal with their experiences of abuse sometimes in a public setting in their local communities,” Ms Savidis said.
She called for public hearings to be held in Ballarat, Geelong and across western Victoria.
“A lot of survivors did not complain publicly when they were children – some of our clients have told us they were too scared to complain or they were threatened with the consequences of complaining by their abusers,” she said.
“As adult survivors to be able to tell their stories is of immense value and especially in a public setting where they were gagged as children.”
Mr Coon said public hearings might also encourage other local victims to come forward.
“I felt disgraceful when I was molested at 10,” he said.
“I didn’t think anybody would want to know me if I told anybody.
“But now about once a month they are charging a priest for doing the wrong thing many years ago and that is how I came out with my story.”