- Four million dollars has been paid to survivors and apologies issued for the abuse by Brother Gerard McNamara between 1970 and 1975.
- The Marist Brothers have apologised to victims, families and the whole community.
- Lawyers say changes to Victorian law mean survivors are now more likely to be treated fairly.
The Marist Brothers have apologised to the Latrobe Valley community and paid $4 million to survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Brother Gerard McNamara between 1970 and 1975.
But one survivor, who wants to be known as Frank, said he would always feel betrayed.
"I had to change myself as a boy. I was a good boy. I had a weird sense of humour," he said.
Frank [not his real name] was 13 when he was first abused at the former St Paul's College in Traralgon.
The school is still operational but is now known as Lavalla Catholic College and it has a campus named St Paul's.
'Could never pinpoint it'
Frank said his secondary schooling was a nightmare leaving him with mental illness and thoughts of self-harm and suicide. At times he has felt so low he had tried to take his life.
For a long time he was unaware of impact of his abuse.
Eight years ago his mother saw an article in a Latrobe Valley newspaper which kicked off an arduous legal journey.
"She rang me and asked me, 'Did he ever do anything to me?' and that was the first time I was able to say, 'Yes'," he said.
"She was really upset, not at me, but she felt that she wasn't a good enough mother to me. That's why I'm demanding an apology to her. They failed her."
Marist Brothers Provincial Brother Peter Carroll issued the apology, which said: "I'm so sorry for what happened to you at St Paul's College, Traralgon, when you were entrusted to us as a young, innocent boy. You were treated shamefully. We let you down and broke your trust."
"I acknowledge the heartbreak caused by the abuse and the impact of the abuse at St Paul's College and the victims, families and the whole community."
Changes to Victorian law allow legal action against the church
A lawyer, who specialises in sexual abuse victim cases, said the legal system had changed a lot and it now better supported survivors.
"In the past, to pursue a church organisation or a catholic organisation was very difficult because of the way the legal landscape was set up for survivors," Laird Macdonald from Rightside Legal said.
"They will [then] have the double pain of the significant press and the fact they've tried to defend that abhorrent conduct."
Frank said he was disappointed it took legal action to get an apology and a payout.
"The way they fought their arguments through letters to me – or to my lawyer – just shows they haven't changed at all. They really havent," he said.
"They might have got a slap on the wrist during the royal commission, but they haven't changed a bit."
'We're not that school any more': School principal
Lavalla Catholic College principal John Freeman disagreed with the sentiment that change hadn't occurred.
"For anybody who was affected by what happened back in the 1970s there's a deep hurt and I know the Marist Brothers have made apologies," he said.
"That's a matter of record, it's on their website. I'm not sure what will alleviate the hurt."
In a statement to the ABC Marist Brothers Provincial Peter Carroll said: "On behalf of the Marist Brothers, I have placed on the record - in public and in private - our acknowledgment of these failings, the damage that they have caused and the great hurt, suffering and pain that has resulted for individuals, their families and communities across Australia including Traralgon, Gippsland and the Sale Diocese."
Brother Carol said the Marist Brothers now have stronger policies to keep children safe.
"Central to this are the provisions of mandatory reporting legislation which applies to all individuals, religious and lay alike," he said.
For historic institutional sexual abuse survivor advocate, Chrissie Foster, the apologies will never go far enough.
"They just let it continue. Their apologies are just nothing," she said.
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- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
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