Public art memorial site for survivors of sexual assault given green light

A commitment from the Ballarat community to develop a public art memorial to acknowledge survivors of sexual assault, has moved one step closer with Ballarat City Council voting unanimously on a proposed site.

The location for the public art memorial will be near the lake adjacent to Plane Avenue in Victoria Park.

Ballarat City Council has also committed to a funding strategy for implementation of the site design in 2022-2025.

The City of Ballarat anticipates the total project cost to be $1.5 million, with a recommended commitment of $520,000 of funding from Council.

The Continuous Voices Arts Project was launched in 2019 out of respect for anyone who has suffered from sexual abuse, both directly and indirectly, whether in an institution, family, or elsewhere.

The memorial recognises the full extent of the pain and trauma caused by all forms of sexual violence. The space is also designed to support healing, by helping to continually voice the conversations for change.

The project is being guided by the Continuous Voices Community Reference Group and facilitated by the City of Ballarat in partnership with the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA), LOUD Fence Inc, Care Leavers Australasia Network, the Art Gallery of Ballarat and Beyond Empathy.

The first project stage, the Continuous Voices creative research project, resulted in the engagement of more than 50 survivors across 12 months to explore ideas of acknowledgment, memorials and telling survivor stories. The information will be used to guide the design of the memorial and site, ensuring that survivor voices are at the heart of the design.

City of Ballarat Councillor Belinda Coates said the site had been carefully selected for its natural beauty but also its centrality.

“The Continuous Voices Memorial will carefully balance opposing ideas. On the one hand it will provide a peaceful setting for quiet reflection, but it will also provide an opportunity for deepening community understanding of the tragic consequences and intergenerational trauma that comes from sexual abuse,” she said.

“By placing the memorial in a tranquil setting, near water and enveloped in nature, the project will hopefully make a significant contribution toward the healing of those who have suffered.

“This area of Victoria Park is surrounded by bike paths, has an abundance of car parking and is walking distance to public transport. The location supports inclusive and accessible visitor access.”

Cr Coates also said the Continuous Voices Memorial will be an Australian first, noting the National Memorial in Canberra is for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

“This memorial will create a public space which will honour all voices which have been silenced. It will also recognise Ballarat’s story and history with sexual abuse,” she said.

LOUD Fence Inc is a movement that encourages individuals to tie brightly-coloured ribbons on the fences of religious buildings and other institutions as a show of support for survivors and victims. Founder Maureen Hatcher has been involved with the Continuous Voices Community Reference Group since 2019.

“The Ballarat community is now aware we have a dark history of child sexual assault. The reality is, abuse still occurs, and we need to be loud and pro-active in calling it out,” Ms Hatcher said.

“By acknowledging survivors, victims and their loved ones, the Continuous Voices Memorial will create some light. It may also encourage some people to speak out about past and current abuse. It may help save lives.

“LOUD fence Inc knows many have waited a long time for some kind of public, permanent recognition. We fully support the project and look forward to seeing a safe, beautiful space for reflection and healing within our community.”

  • Ballarat CASA Crisis Care line free call 1800 806 292

  • Lifeline 13 11 14

  • Sexual Assault Helpline

  • 1800 Respect (1800 737 732)

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