BALLARAT will begin its healing process when Victoria's inquiry into sexual abuse in the church arrives in the city.At least 40 former students of pedophile Christian Brothers Robert Best, Edward Dowlan, Stephen Farrell and priest Gerald Ridsdale at St Alipius Primary School in Ballarat have taken their lives and countless more are still scarred by the abuse they suffered as schoolboys four decades ago.
The conviction and 14-year sentence given to Best last year helped trigger the Victorian parliamentary inquiry, which tomorrow will hear evidence in the central Victorian city for the first time.
Individual survivors of abuse will give evidence, while one man's testament will be heard behind closed doors.
The parents of a suicide victim and a family support group are also to speak.
"It's a bit of a Eureka moment for Ballarat which was the hotbed of abuse, especially in the 1970s at St Alipius," said survivors group spokesman Peter Blenkiron.
"It's had a huge impact on the Ballarat community.
"It's had an impact on survivors and their families and the families of those who don't survive.
"There are many in Ballarat who still can't talk about it."
Survivors and their families had asked the parliament's Family and Community Development Committee to convene in Ballarat because many found it too difficult to come to Melbourne for hearings.
For years they've been fighting to be heard and it's a brave step now for some to even talk about the abuse they suffered and the cover-ups they endured.
"It takes a lot of courage to write it, let alone having to speak it out aloud in public," Mr Blenkiron said.
He and other survivors often reflect on growing up in an aggressive Ballarat in the 1970s and 80s.
"There was always fights in the pub, always someone blueing. Looking back on it now, we can see why - there was so much suppressed anger . . . it was boys who were angry all the time," he said.
"Overlay the suicides on top of that, it's like a bomb went off in Ballarat in the 70s and we're still dealing with the fallout.
"The inquiry coming here could help the healing a bit."
The inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations is also expected to sit in Ballarat next February to hear a joint submission from more than 30 abuse survivors.