Memorial gives voice to the silent

The haunting words of the song We Sing For Those Whose Song Is Silent brought an end the dedication of a memorial to the survivors and victims of sexual abuse at the former Marist Brothers High School in Hamilton.

 

The evening event started with Julia Lederwasch, the Acting Principal of St Francis Xavier’s College in Hamilton, welcoming the gathering of more than 200 people.

Beverley O’Toole and Bob O’Toole, a Marist abuse survivor and founder of the Clergy Abused Network, started the dedication before calling on Audrey Nash and her son Geoffrey Nash to remember the story of Andrew Nash, Audrey’s son and Geoffrey’s younger brother who was a student at Marist Brothers High School.

In his address, Bob O’Toole said that the memorial would give a voice to those who didn't have a voice at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“Sadly, Marist Brothers Hamilton has a history of brutality and an horrific record of sexual abuse crimes.”

He said also for many survivors, it was too painful for them to attend the dedication – among them John Dunn, a schoolboy friend of Andrew Nash.

Bob O’Toole then shared an extract from a letter from John Dunn.

In this letter, John Dunn wrote: “I buried my friend (Andrew Nash) but I have never said goodbye. I was asked what this memorial means to me. It is a place where I need to say goodbye to my friend, to let him rest finally and to let these memories rest.”

Geoffrey Nash recalled how Andrew Nash, while a student at Marist Brothers High School, took his own life in 1974 when he was just 13 years old. 

In his address, Geoffrey Nash detailed the names of the Marist Brothers who had taught at the Hamilton and Maitland schools and who had later been either charged or convicted with sexual offences against children.

“The 1970s were bad years … being a young Catholic boy in those years was a dangerous occupation," he said.

The Newcastle Herald, in its editorial on the memorial, detailed that the Marist Brothers acknowledged - at the Royal Commission - that Andrew Nash was probably sexually abused at the school before he took his own life.

Peter Carroll fms, the Provincial of the Marist Brothers Province of Australia and Bishop Bill Wright also spoke.

Peter Carroll said: “As Geoffrey Nash has said before, there have been too many words. Words that fail to encompass the enormity of what has happened and the suffering that has been endured and that is still evident, words that have failed to recognise there are, never have been and never will be any excuse for the criminal abuse of children.”

Bishop Bill said: “No-one who was here will soon forget the words spoken by Audrey and Geoff Nash. As Brother Peter said, this is a place of memory and a place that will keep the memory alive of things that happened here as a warning and as a rebuke to anyone who does not take the protection of children seriously.”

The memorial was then dedicated by survivors, their families, their friends and those who stand in solidarity with the survivors, silently placing their hands on the memorial stone – thereby investing the memorial stone with their stories and their love.

The full version of the speech by Peter Carroll fms can be read here.

The full version of the speech by Bob O’Toole can be read here.

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John Kingsley-Jones Image
John Kingsley-Jones

John Kingsley-Jones is Head of Diocesan Communications