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What is LOUD fence?


When I was in primary school, there were two campuses of St Alipius in Ballarat. Boys attended with girls at one campus until grade two and then they went to the St Alipius Christian Brothers School in the next block for the higher grades. At some point, a decision was made to close the Christian Brothers School and, when I was in grade six, the boys returned to us. They were, in hindsight, mostly broken boys. I remember a lot of physical fighting and outbursts. We (the girls) thought that must have been how boys were. We had no idea.

The personal stories told at the Royal Commission in Ballarat in 2015 had local people's heads spinning. People felt helpless. They were saying they wanted to do something but didn't know what.

Some ribbons had started to appear on the gates at St Patricks College. Two of us arranged to meet and tie ribbons onto the fence of the former Christian Brothers School to show support for our ex-classmates who had attended there. What colour? Silver? White? “No let's make them colourful – loud, there's been too much silence”

LOUD fence has always been about showing support for survivors and victims. It has never been about protest or us and them. The ribbons give survivors hope and courage. The ribbons show families of victims they are not alone. The ribbons show support to all types of child sexual assault - not just clergy or institutional. What some people still don’t quite understand is that a ribbon on a fence does not necessarily mean abuse happened there, it merely means that person or organisation cares.

The movement has grown. There are now ribbons on fences, gates and letterboxes all over the world. We now have a passionate group of people who put ribbons up at places they feel need to show some support or just need to have a conversation. We now have survivors who are re-visiting places they were abused to tie a ribbon as it gives them strength. Ribbons are part of the healing process.

There has been too much silence. We need to talk about child sexual assault. We need to talk to children about child sexual assault. It has been hidden away in our town for decades. The ribbons help open up that conversation. I understand people are afraid. They want to protect the innocence of children. So, obviously, it needs to be done properly. Young children can be told the ribbons are to remind big people to listen to young children. Older children a bit more…

Ballarat has a dark history. Ballarat can continue to keep the remnants of it and stay silent or it can choose, as a community, to move forward. Ballarat could show the world how we chose not to be silent anymore. Schools need to lead the way and do what they do best – educate. We need programs in ALL schools regarding sexual assault so children can receive age appropriate information. We need leaders in the community to get on board – City councillors, school principals, police officers, politicians. We need people who aren't afraid. We need loud people.

No more silence.

Maureen Hatcher

~ LOUD fence ~ m.hatcher@bigpond.com &&&