The ACT government will rename a major road that commemorates Australia's former governor-general Sir William Slim in light of allegations he sexually abused children in the 1950s.
Among his accusers is Canberra art gallery director Robert Stephens. For the past two decades, he's travelled down William Slim Drive almost every day, reminded of the man he says abused him and other children at the now infamous NSW home for migrant children, Fairbridge Farm.
The decision to strip the road of Slim's name was announced by Planning Minister Mick Gentleman on Thursday ahead of the release of a review into place naming in the territory following some community concern "villians" and criminals were being commemorated as heroes.
Mr Gentleman said he had carefully considered both the allegations and a submission from the Slim family, as well as the recent royal commission into child sexual abuse, and had advised the federal government of his decision.
"William Slim Drive has an association and legacy that contravenes our values....as a modern, inclusive city," he said.
"Child sexual abuse is abhorrent and we need to ensure our public place naming does not cause ongoing hurt to Canberrans."
A replacement name has not yet been decided but Mr Gentleman said he expected to formally rename the road after its upcoming duplication project.
The Slim family told the review they strongly objected to the change "as a result of the allegation of child abuse against our grandfather by less than a handful of people".
Speaking to The Canberra Times just hours after hearing the news on Thursday, Mr Stephens said he was still in shock.
"It's very raw, I don't often get emotional but this has really hit me," he said.
"It's a huge relief. And it's not just for me. This is really a recognition for all of us about what happened. It's been gnawing for a long time."
The allegations did not surface publicly until decades after Slim's death in 1970 and have never been tested in a criminal court.
While the royal commission did not make a specific finding against Slim, it had accepted earlier evidence about abuse at Fairbridge, of which he was a patron. The ACT government noted the commission had also urged institutions to centre responses to allegations around victims and to ensure existing honours did not commemorate perpetrators of abuse.
But the review was slammed as "overreach" by the co-chair of the place names committee, David Headon, who said it already had good processes in place to make and review decisions.
The committee, wary of making any kind of finding itself on such serious allegations, had been waiting on a government response to the evidence submitted before making their own decision on William Slim Drive, which has borne its name since 1976.
On Thursday, Labor MLA Bec Cody, who spearheaded the review, welcomed Mr Gentleman's decision as a "victory for truth and honesty about our past".
"While Slim will never face the trial he deserved, we should not be running a protection racket for his legacy," she said.
She said the result had been worth the fierce criticism she had copped from those who saw the review as a waste of time or a "whitewash" of history.
Mr Stephens, who gave evidence to the royal commission, also stressed the move was about learning from the past, not erasing it.
He didn't tell anyone what had happened himself until he was in his 40s and suddenly confronted by Slim's statute on a visit to St Paul's Cathedral in London. At its feet lay a small red thank you card, signed by a "grateful child of Singapore".
"The card was too much," Mr Stephens said. "It all just came back after that. Everything went off the rails."
He had clawed his way out of depression when he later moved to Canberra, but an unsuspecting drive down the street brought the trauma back to the surface.
It's been a long battle but the government has really listened. It's shown it has a soul.Robert Stephens
While there's also been calls to rename Haig Park, Mr Gentleman said he had instead decided to install new signage detailing more of Haig's "contested history" and the battlefield decisions which had earnt him the name 'Butcher' in some quarters.
Having spent more than a decade calling for the William Slim Drive renaming, Mr Stephens said he had weathered plenty of abuse from those eager to defend Slim's legacy, particularly his celebrated military career.
"We always knew we'd be taking on the establishment," he said.
"When you're a defenceless kid, these powerful men seem untouchable."
While Mr Stephens said the federal government had yet to acknowledge the allegations, he and other survivors now planned to present them to Britain's House of Lords, where the Slim name remains.
Other jursidictions including Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland have moved to change place names deemed offensive in recent years but Thursday's renaming is the first in the ACT for such a reason.
Mr Stephens said that presented an opportunity to give the replacement special significance.
"I'd like to see something like 'reconciliation' put there instead, to symbolise what this means for the whole community, not just us," he said.
The review had since found the capital's naming processes were robust but made recommendations to improve avenues for community input, which the government has agreed to implement within the next 12 months.
Two alleged victims of Slim had made allegations to the government, Mr Gentleman's office confirmed, while four others had also called for the road to be renamed.
A spokesman for the minister said there were no other public places named after Slim in the ACT, though the government was aware of a place called Viscount Slim in Whyalla, South Australia.
"[We're] not aware of any other memorials/plaques commemorating Sir William Slim within the ACT," he said.