Phil Nagle meets student leaders

August 31, 2015

On Tuesday, May 19 Old Collegian Philip Nagle (SPC 1976-80) was the first person called to the witness box in the Ballarat Case Study of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse.

Mr Nagle delivered an incredibly harrowing and heartbreaking description of the abuse he suffered at the hands of Br Stephen Francis Farrell during his time as a student at the St Alipius Boys’ Primary School in Ballarat, which was run by the Christian Brothers.

He spoke of his long fight for justice and recognition, and of the pitfalls and troubles encountered along the path towards healing.

As he concluded his testimony, Mr Nagle held up a photo to the camera which was broadcasting live on the internet.

-There are 33 boys in that image,- Mr Nagle told the Commission.

-Of the 33 boys in that image, I know that 12 are dead. I believe they committed suicide.-

Two weeks later, Mr Nagle was reading through the Saturday edition of The Courier when he saw an open letter the student leaders at St Patrick’s College penned.

His spirits soared.

-I was just elated to see something so heartfelt, so sincere and so mature written by such young men,- Mr Nagle told the College’s Director of Community Development Mr Paul Nolan in a phone call on the following Monday.

-I’d love to be able to meet these boys in person to tell them how much it means to someone like me to see the words they have written.-

So, on Tuesday, July 28 at 1pm in the College Boardroom in Kennedy House, Mr Nagle sat down over lunch with Headmaster Mr John Crowley and the leaders of the Student Council.

-I just wanted to thank you boys for saying what we’ve always wanted to hear,- Mr Nagle said.

-For taking the opportunity to acknowledge and apologise for things that happened a long time ago but also for looking at the present and trying to find positives out of what has occurred.

-You have set an example for all of Ballarat to follow and you have helped in the healing process for me and for others I have spoken with who have read your letter.-

College Captain Kelsey Gannon said the students were delighted to hear that their words had had such an impact and had helped Mr Nagle reconnect with the College.

Headmaster Mr John Crowley said he was very proud of the way the students had taken the initiative to write the letter and had had the strength and courage to ensure it was published where it would be read by as many people as possible.

-Our student leaders, in this instant, displayed every characteristic you would ever want to see in anybody in a leadership position,- Mr Crowley said.

-They were forthright, honest, compassionate, courageous and caring. They have helped, in a very tangible way, the healing process for many who have been harmed by child sexual abuse and have provided a moment of joy in what is a very difficult period for the entire Ballarat community.-