As the light faded from the Canberra sky, the families and friends of victims of past child sexual abuse at Marist College gathered for a long-awaited healing ceremony on Thursday night.
At once an acknowledgement and apology for the abuse suffered by college students during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, and the failures to act at the time, the ceremony also marked a College plea for forgiveness and a public pledge that such events would "never happen again".
The ceremony also saw a plaque unveiled in remembrance of the students abused and committing the school to the "healing process", with a reading from psalm 119:105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path".
It followed calls from survivors of abuse at the college for a permanent memorial, including one as early as 2012 by former student Nicholas Quaine, as well as the findings of the royal commission that the Marist Brothers Catholic order failed to intervene and remove offending brothers John Chute and Gregory Joseph Sutton.
Headmaster Richard Sidorko apologised on behalf of the college for the abuses former students suffered, the failures of staff at the time to acknowledge it and the Marist community for not protecting students from those who had betrayed the trust installed in them by the school.
"The abuses were carried out by staff, brothers and lay people who betrayed the trust given them to care for and nurture students of this Marist Brothers Catholic school," he said.
"As headmaster of Marist College, I apologise for the failures of the past that allowed those evils to occur.
"To every student who was abused, sexually or otherwise, while at Marist College, I say sorry and we say sorry.
"To the families of those students who have taken their own lives because of the abuses suffered here, I am deeply sorry, we are deeply sorry.
"To those former students who have self harmed or continued to suffer pain and suffering because of the abuse suffered here, I am sorry, we are sorry."
Father Peter Day also addressed the ceremony, saying they were gathered there to remember the "stories of innocent children and their families devastated by sexual abuse; stories we'd rather not hear, stories we must hear".
"These acts of inhumanity shake us to the core. But we are also here this evening thanks to the unshakeable humanity who have had the courage to speak out," he said.
Between readings and prayers, several in the crowd - men and women - could be seen wiping tears from their eyes.