Honoured for his tireless advocacy in supporting victims of child abuse, Damian De Marco remains as fiercely motivated as ever to take on one of society's most powerful institutions.
He's deeply troubled that despite a royal commission, widespread condemnation of the Catholic Church's "protected" confessional secrecy, and the terrible abuse admissions made by priests, very little has changed.
He's also worried that the abuse of children by the clergy continues to this day.
From Wallaroo, just over the border in NSW, Mr De Marco has been made a member of the Order of Australia, five years after being winning 2015 prize as the ACT's Local Hero.
A victim of notorious paedophile John "Brother Kostka" Chute in the 1980s while attending the Marist College in Canberra, he testified before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
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"The royal commission taught us the problem but hasn't solved it; if anything, it [the problem] has got worse," he said.
He cited the recent child abuse allegations against Prince Andrew and the high-powered political and public support which continues to flow in for disgraced and jailed Archbishop George Pell as evidence of a system which has failed.
"The problem hasn't gone away, it's just that we can see it a bit clearer," he said. "And we still don't have any mechanism of accountability for these people at the top."
A key issue which the ACT government needs to resolve immediately, he says, is the one in which involves priests receiving "working with vulnerable people" registration.
Legislation requires people who work, volunteer or have contact with vulnerable people in the course of regulated activities or services to have a background check and risk assessment. The ACT government also introduced reforms last year in which it was an offence for any adult not to report suspected child abuse to police.
However, the Catholic Church has skirted the issue, officially stating that "in the unlikely case of unreported child abuse being disclosed during confession, priests will, without breaching the Seal of Confession, take the opportunity to encourage and assist the person to report to civil authorities".
He described the seal of confession as a tool which the Church uses to "exert an extraordinary amount of power over the laity".
"Surely, for all thinking and caring people, the rights of a child not to be abused should prevail over the Church protecting its confessors," he said.
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