Protesters took aim at Cardinal George Pell’s bigoted legacy at St Mary’s Cathedral on February 4, where a memorial service was held. A range of protest actions organised by child abuse survivors and others were also organised in the preceding week.
Pell died in Rome on January 10. He was charged with child sexual abuse charges in 2018 and jailed for 13 months. His conviction was quashed in 2020 by the High Court of Australia and he was released. He spent his last years in the Vatican.
Renowned queer performer Pauline Pantsdown (aka Simon Hunt) initiated a mass ribboning event on January 29, with Ballarat child abuse survivor Paul Auchettl and Trevor Coad.
Pantsdown started placing ribbons on the fence of St Mary’s Cathedral, and many others joined in. But every night, the ribbons were cut off the fence by the church. The community kept replacing them.
The protest action was pioneered by the Loud Fence movement, based in Victoria. Ribbons first began appearing in Ballarat during the 2013–2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Ribbons were tied onto the gates of Saint Alibis and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Ballarat by survivors and supporters to elevate their calls for justice.
“Every ribbon is the voice of a survivor of child sexual abuse,” Pantsdown said on social media. “Cathedral management finally realised we were not going away, and agreed for a significant amount of these to stay for tomorrow’s Pell memorial service. Negotiations will continue re an ongoing presence.”
The royal commission recorded that up to 14 priests sexually abused children in Ballarat, the Guardian reported, with “130 claims and substantiated complaints of child sexual abuse against the diocese”.
LGBTIQ rights group Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) initiated the protest at Pell’s memorial service. New South Wales Police tried to stop the protest, and began proceedings in the Supreme Court on the basis of “security” issues. Police backed down when an alternate route was agreed.
CARR’s action protested Pell’s homophobia and bigotry, his opposition to same-sex marriage and his failure to protect children from widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Former Prime Minister John Howard, opposition leader Peter Dutton, Tony Abbott and Alan Jones attended.
More than 200 joined the protest, including child sex abuse survivor Vivienne Moore, long-term LGBTIQ activist and 78er Ken Davis and activists Simone Maddison and Cherish Keuhlmann.
The Chaser — a political satire group — tried to deliver a coffin full of evidence of child sexual assault cover-ups, to bury alongside Pell, but were stopped by security.