LEWIS BLAYSE PUBLIC MEMORIAL EVENT – University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus: 1 March, 2014, 1-4 pm, Alumni Court
On the 31st of January/1st February, long-time social justice, child protection / anti-paedophilia activist, and Forgotten Australian, Lewis Blayse (born Lewin Blazevich, in Tully), passed away, aged 64, at his home in Benarkin, Queensland. It was just after he had conducted an interview with the ABC’s 7:30 Report about the current Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/) and the re-airing of the 2003 ABC Four Corners story “The Homies”, which featured Lewis’s story.
Before he died, he had been writing a daily blog about the Royal Commission and associated matters at www.lewisblayse.net, which had gained a popular following for its trenchant and fearless commentary on institutional responses to child protection issues.
Lewis was also well-known for being active throughout his life, both publicly and behind the scenes, on issues such as Children’s Homes (Forgotten Australians), anti-Vietnam war activism, better treatment of welfare recipients, indigenous rights, women’s rights, prisoners’ rights, rights for the sight-impaired, child migrants, forced adoptions, child sex tourism, educating the medical professions about the impacts of abuses in Children’s Homes, rights for farmers, mandating seatbelts on school buses, activism for the right to protest publicly, and teaching practices, amongst many other areas.
Royal Commission Chief, Justice Peter McClellan, thanked Lewis publicly on the Monday following his death, for his work in bringing about the Royal Commission. Lewis began calling for a Royal Commission in the early 1990s when he started, with his wife Sylvia, the support group Formerly in Children’s Homes (FICH).
A public Memorial Event celebrating Lewis’s extraordinary life and discussing the work of the Royal Commission was held at the Alumni Court at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia) on Saturday, the 1st of March (1-4pm). The broad themes of the event were “Where are we now and where do we need to go from here?” and “The whole world is watching.”
At the end of the speeches, Lewis’s eldest child, Aletha Blayse, read out the following letter from former Australian Prime Minister and founder of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Julia Gillard:
The Hon Julia Gillard
27th Prime Minister of Australia
I extend heartfelt condolences on the passing of your father, Lewis Blayse. I am proud to join with so many in commemorating his life, his remarkable courage, his profound decency.
Although Lewis was a child of the most horrific abuse, he was one of the fathers of the civic instrument, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, that will be crucial to our ensuring that what Lewis and so many thousands endured cannot happen again.
It was Lewis’ voice – crying out from decades of memories that could never go away, that he could never escape – that I heard.
And it was his voice that helped me to find my voice, as Prime Minister, to determine that we must never allow such unspeakable acts to become part of the fabric of our society. That we would, through this arduous process of a Royal Commission, silence the unspeakable – forever.
Lewis found, somehow, the courage to come forward. What happened to him ravaged him, but it did not defeat his soul or his spirit. Because of Lewis, millions of Australians who have, thank goodness, had no understanding or experience with what Lewis suffered, now have a true appreciation of an evil that we – that our country, our authorities, our institutions – let happen.
But no more. I join you in mourning Lewis’ death. But we are all strengthened by Lewis’ refusal to let this terrible chapter in our history escape our determination to uncover it, expose it, understand it, and resolve to never tolerate these things again. So that our children can never have their innocence stolen so cruelly. Not here in Australia.
Lewis showed us so clearly what we must never allow to occur, as individuals, as a society, as Australians. Lewis also showed us what a real Australian is.
Hon Julia Gillard
17 February 2014
13th Floor, Commonwealth Parliament Offices
100 King William Street, ADELAIDE SA 5000
T: +61 8 8205 1060 F: +61 8 8205 1065
The University of Queensland flew the Australian flag at half-mast in honour of Lewis’s work in science and child protection and to mourn his passing.
Lewis’s daughter, Aletha Blayse, officiated the event and made opening and closing remarks.
Other speakers were long-time activist Chris Wilding, lawyer and activist John Ellis, Dr Cathy Kezelman of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) (whose speech was read by Nicola Ellis, wife of John Ellis), Nicky Davis of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, Karyn Walsh from Micah Projects & Lotus Place, Jim Luthy, Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN president), and ‘Heiner Affair’ whistleblower and activist Kevin Lindeberg.
Aletha had hoped to make a positive statement on the day regarding eventual receipt of restorative justice for Lewis’s family from the organisations (the Salvation Army, the Anglican Church, and the Queensland State government) responsible for Lewis’s and his family’s suffering and deprivation, but was unable to make such a statement. Her and her family’s quest for justice continues.
Aletha had also hoped to announce that the University of Queensland had agreed to award Lewis his PhD posthumously as a mark of respect for his work both as a scientist and as a campaigner for the rights of children to grow up in a safe and loving environment, but this matter is still going through the university’s administrative processes (a positive outcome is still expected).
Read/see more here:
- Lewis Blayse Memorial Poster_v3 (Displayed at the event).
- Leaflet_Lewis Blayse Public Memorial Event_1 March 2014 (Word version – warning: contains distressing content).
- Leaflet_Lewis Blayse Public Memorial Event_1 March 2014 (PDF version – warning: contains distressing content).
- Post/discussion about the memorial.
- Video of the memorial: .
Media enquiries: Aletha Blayse (Please use the ‘Contact’ page on www.lewisblayse.net)
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