Scores of children abused at the hands of paedophile priests and teachers at the schools
Image: Victoria’s Collection
St Patrick’s College Ballarat is one of the longest running boarding schools for boys in Australia. Established in 1893 by the Christian Brothers, St Patrick’s has been a staple school in Victoria’s Central Highlands.
In 1959, Cardinal George Pell was the school captain – just one of many convicted paedophiles who attended and/or taught at the school in the last century.
St Patrick’s College and its sister schools have been tormented with emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Scores of children have been abused under the watch of the Catholic Church – but for some, punishment for their abusers has come far too late.
Between 1953 and 1983, several students who attended St Patrick’s College and their sister school, St Alipius Boys’ School were sexually and emotionally abused.
One of the biggest offenders during this time was the school’s chaplain, Gerald Ridsdale. Ridsdale was convicted multiple times between 1993 and 2017. He faced child sexual abuse and indecent assault charges against 65 children as young as four-years-old.
Image: Sydney Morning Herald
Ridsdale was protected by Melbourne Archbishop Ronald Mulkearns who claimed he knew nothing about Ridsdale’s crimes, despite receiving complaints from parents and children in the 1970s.
Pell also lived with Ridsdale and claimed he had no idea about Ridsdale’s sexual preference for children – hard to believe, coming from one of Australia’s latest Catholic priests to be convicted of child sexual abuse.
Other paedophile offenders and enablers involved with St Patrick’s & St Alipius Boys’ School include:
- Father Bryan Coffey, ordained in 1960 and sentenced in 1998. He was given three years in prison for abusing several children. He was given leniency by the judge because he “stopped offending in 1975” and his offences were “not the worst examples” of sexual crime.
- Brother Edward Dowlan, convicted of 52 sexual abuse charges. According to Judge Elizabeth Curtain who sentenced Dowlan in 1996, Dowlan showed no remorse and refused to apologise.
- Father Peter Searson, convicted in 1990 for hitting a child. He died in 2009 without being punished for the rape and sexual abuse of children the parish. Forced children to kneel between his legs during confession and threatened them with a gun.
- Archbishop Frank Little, put in charge of the Melbourne Archdiocese in 1974. Covered up for multiple paedophile priests including Searson. Little’s name has since been removed from St Patrick’s College buildings.
- Robert Claffey, former priest and child abuser. In 2016, he was imprisoned for 19 charges of child abuse involving boys and girls aged five to 14. He was given 18 years for his crimes.
In 2011, Victoria Police revealed upwards of 30 prior students of St Alipius Boys’ School have committed suicide after being abused.
The current headmaster of St Alipius & St Patrick’s, John Crowley, has since apologised to survivors of abuse.
“For childhood innocence lost; a time that should have been one of great wonder, that was stolen in the most despicable and heinous way, by the very people who are meant to protect and care for you, for this we apologise,” Mr Crowley said.
St Patrick’s and St Alipius Boys’ School were a black mark on the history of Catholicism in Australia. It’s only in the last twenty years the mark has started to be scrubbed clean.
At Kelso Lawyers, we’re committed to helping victims of child sexual abuse and helping them achieve justice and compensation from the Catholic Church.