THE accolades keep coming for former Mildura police detective Denis Ryan AM, PICTURED, who was last night conferred as the region’s latest ‘Freeman of the City.’
The title of Freeman of the City is Mildura Rural City Council’s highest honour, with Mr Ryan conferred at a civic reception in front of fellow Freemen of the City, his supporters, family and friends.
Mr Ryan needs no introduction to Sunraysia residents, having received national praise and recognition for his selfless acts uncovering and seeking justice for victims of child abuse in Sunraysia.
In what is now a well-documented story, Mr Ryan made immense professional and personal sacrifices over four decades in his pursuit to uncover and seek justice for the victims of child abuse during the 1970s.
These crimes were perpetrated by former head of the Mildura Sacred Heart Parish Monsignor John Day, who received protection from members of the local police force, senior members of government and the Catholic Church.
Mr Ryan’s heroic efforts, which destroyed his policing career due to his refusal to ‘turn the other way’ despite high-level pressure to do so, have helped change the culture of our community.
Undaunted, Mr Ryan continued to fight for justice for more than four decades – a fight which impacted significantly on Mr Ryan and his family.
In wasn’t until the release of his book ‘Unholy Trinity’ in 2013 that the extent of Day’s crimes, and the enormous lengths taken to cover them up, became public knowledge.
Mr Ryan’s efforts have since been vindicated at many different levels, including acceptance of his testimony at the Child Abuse Royal Commission, a public apology from Victoria Police, and being made a Member of the Order of Australia and Mildura’s Citizen of the Year as part of this year’s Australia Day honours.
In bestowing the honour of Freeman of the City on Mr Ryan, Council considered the following criteria – contribution to the community, outstanding achievement, personal integrity and affiliation with the municipality.
It is then, no wonder, that Councillors unanimously voted to make Mr Ryan a Freeman of the City. He joins Glenn Miller OAM (2005), Margaret Kelly (2005) and John Burfitt (2010) as Mildura’s current Freemen of the City.
Mildura Mayor Mark Eckel said Mr Ryan was “a more than worthy recipient of the honour.”
“We have a lot to be proud of in our region, not least of which are the achievements of our residents, and Mr Ryan’s courageous and selfless actions over many years are a prime example,” Cr Eckel said. “I’m glad we’re able add to the already numerous and prestigious awards, titles and recognition Mr Ryan has received by bestowing on him our highest honour, and we’re certainly proud as a community of his efforts.”