It was among the most extraordinary days in Australian legal history. Hatch’s Lachlan Keller, Fatima Halloum and Helena Abdou were there.
As the nation held its breath waiting for the verdict on Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction on child sex charges, many in the the crowd outside the Supreme Court in Melbourne had more reason to be anxious than most.
For the survivors of abuse and their supporters, it was a day and a decision that held deeper meaning.
As abuse survivor Robert House told the media after the Court of Appeal delivered its decision – 2-1 in favour of upholding Pell’s conviction – this was a momentous day.
“It gives a stronger voice to survivors, survivors will be believed now, after decades of not being believed. Now we are believed, and that is wonderful, because they silenced us all too well, they put people in positions of power that allowed them to get away with raping children,” he said.
“It brings hope to humanity, it’s an exciting moment in history. This is a day for all people who are languishing in mental institutions, who are in prison because of the childhood they had, and to the people who took their lives with their own hands this is a victory for them as well.”
Advocate Vladimir Selakovic told Hatch: “I came here with the feeling that he was going to walk free, he’s one of the elite people and I just had it in the back of my mind that justice was not going to be served.
“Without a doubt [Pell] will (take it to the High Court). Remember these people have got the funding, so they can take it as high as they want. People are starting to lose faith in the church, they want to know that there is something credible about the church … we just need to get to the bottom of this, and we need to get to the truth. You can only achieve something and fix the problem if you know the truth.”
Phil Nagle, a sexual abuse survivor from Ballarat, said: “The right decision was made. It was very heart-warming to see that you can get justice and justice was served.”