Abuse victims take protest to the grave
FOUR people carrying a coffin is an incongruous sight in a leafy suburban street, but that coffin - bought for $500 yesterday morning - will be inscribed with the name of every state ward who has suffered abuse and died without compensation.
It was the main prop for the score of victims holding a vigil outside the Christian Brothers' Treacy Centre in Parkville who complain that the state, churches and charities are ''as bad as each other'' in abandoning responsibility for lives shattered by abuse as state wards.
The protesters hold placards with such sentiments as ''abused by the state, betrayed by the government'', ''orphans of the state'' and ''it's not too late to care''.
But the protesters got some good tidings: federal Human Rights Commissioner Catherine Branson has written to the Commonwealth government to express dismay at its lack of leadership in redressing their abuses. Ms Branson has urged Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin to pursue ''consistent and inclusive'' redress schemes in every state, through the Council of Australian Governments, saying the suffering and abuse of children at the hands of carers is clearly a violation of human rights.
Most of those assembled on The Avenue, all members of the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), have long and bitter experience of abuse - sexual, physical, emotional, psychological.
Wendy Dyckhoff (born Eldridge) spent her entire childhood in care, along with five siblings who were in different institutions, being abused physically and sexually.
''This is the only way I know my family,'' she says, producing a photograph album of pictures and documents compiled by a brother. ''We've never lived under the same roof. I had no childhood, no toys. I spent my weekends on the floor with rags, polishing the floorboards and fittings.''
Ray Prosser, now 84, has never got over the abuse he suffered from the age of 10 at the Salvation Army institution in Box Hill. One paedophile would divide his time between victims at Box Hill and Bayswater, he says.
Leonie Sheedy, the CLAN chief executive, says the network has more than 1000 members drawn from people who grew up in 600 orphanages, church homes and foster homes. She and her six siblings were sent to 26 different institutions during their childhood.
Her brother Anthony, a victim while a ward of the state at St Augustine's Orphanage in Geelong, died in June, the day he received a letter setting a date for a settlement hearing with the government and Christian Brothers.