Old Collegian policeman recognised in Australia Day Honours

January 26, 2021

St Patrick’s College is extremely proud to learn today that Old Collegian Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson (SPC 1970-73) has been honoured with an Australian Police Medal in today’s Australia Day Honours List.

For nearly 29 years Detective Sergeant Carson has investigated sexual offences committed against children that included a number of high-profile cases in the Ballarat area. He has worked tirelessly with victims and families to provide ongoing support and assistance. Detective Sergeant Carson has provided a dedicated service to Victoria Police, and to the community for over 46 years.

While we would love to pen a tribute to Kevin today we feel we could do it no better than journalist Louise Milligan who posted the following just a short time ago (It’s long but it’s worth a read):

“Kevin is a fine man and here is what I want to say about him.

I can think of no person more deserving of this, nor indeed, any other award, than Kevin.

He is truly what I was brought up to believe that policing is all about.

He is, moreover, one of the most decent people I have ever come to know. He would do anything to help people in need, and never seeks any accolades or gratitude.

Kevin spent years doing tireless work over long hours investigating clergy abuse and its fallout. His work included securing the first prosecution against Father Gerald Ridsdale, who had abused hundreds of children in the Ballarat diocese over decades and is thought to be one of Australia’s most prolific paedophiles because he was moved from parish to parish in the area by the then bishop.

Through his work, Kevin began to realise the dreadful toll that it was taking on victims because he discovered that they were dying young in large numbers. He discovered there had been 43 suicides that he could then attribute to child sexual abuse. He prepared a report during his own time which he wished to be submitted to the Coroner – it gave the details of the deaths and witnesses and family members anyone doing an official investigation might speak to.

“I felt the need to highlight these deaths and perhaps get something done about them,” Kevin would later write in a submission to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse. In fact, when the work he did was exposed in the media, that was the trigger for the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Institutions. It was also one of the triggers for the Royal Commission itself. These inquiries had been long fought for by survivor communities and have made enormous difference to the way that institutions – particularly churches and schools – manage child protection and prevent betrayal of little kids.

Unfortunately the death toll has not ceased. Since Kevin compiled his report, there have been a number of other suicides, premature deaths and even suicides of the next generation – children of victims of child sexual abuse in the Ballarat area. It has been a dreadful thing for the town and the region to cope with.

Through it all, Kevin has been incredibly supportive to the community. He has had to knock on the doors of widows and mothers to tell them what had happened to their loved ones. I wrote a couple of chapters in my book Cardinal about the suicide toll in Ballarat and Kevin’s attempts to draw attention to the problem at a time when the church was covering it up. At that time, I had never met nor interviewed Kevin. But every single survivor or friend or family member of those victims that had died always spoke in the most glowing terms of him.

As Kevin so passionately wrote of them in a submission to the Royal Commission, “you don’t see the mother’s tears. You don’t see the partners devastated, raising children as a single parent without their father. You don’t see men crying because they can’t hold their children, unable to hug them, unable to bathe their own children”. I was pleased to see that Francis Sullivan of the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Commission eventually apologised to Kevin for the backlash against Kevin’s good work.

The first time I ever actually met Kevin was when a Ballarat local invited him along to my book launch in Melbourne. It was a very emotional night, with many survivors openly weeping while the speeches were made. I could see that Kevin, too, was very moved. And how could he not be? It’s a dreadful history and he has done his absolute best to try to do the right thing by these broken people, so horribly betrayed when they were children, and their families. Their lives will never be the same.

I’ve since got to know Kevin quite well. One thing that strikes me is how he manages to combine being very discreet and professional with genuine compassion and empathy.

He continues to quietly and kindly support victims – he routinely turns up to their houses to do welfare checks – something that is really appreciated by people who are often mentally struggling and financially strapped. He helped start the standing ovation when Ballarat survivor Peter Blenkiron was recently awarded a Legends of St Patrick’s College award from their mutual alma mater. He still always turns up to the funerals. When I saw him at the service for a child sexual abuse complainant I had known, Kevin was recovering from an illness and still quite unwell. But he made sure he turned up to support the man, who had been very vulnerable and lived a hard life.

In these situations, Kevin is always stoic, kind, a gentleman. He never asks for thanks and he never advertises the good deeds he does.

He even travelled to Ireland to investigate how policing was coping with the clergy abuse issue over there. Again, all his own initiative.

Despite being exposed to a huge amount of secondary trauma (not something he would ever draw attention to because he hates anyone making a fuss), Kevin has continued all these years to work solidly at SOCIT at Ballarat.

Whenever I deliver keynote speeches or speak at writers’ festival events, I mention Kevin. It always makes me a little emotional to do that. When I told his story at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival recently, there was huge applause for a man no-one in that audience of hundreds of people had ever met, but all could appreciate what a truly good person he is.

I think he is the sort of person we should all aspire to be.”

Congratulations Kevin!