Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered an emotive and unreserved national apology to the survivors, victims and families of institutional child sexual abuse.
Hundreds of people watched Mr Morrison deliver the national apology in the Parliament Chamber in Canberra.
The apology comes 10 months after the publication of the final report of the Royal Commissions into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was published on 15 December, 2017 and some 3 months after the launch of the National Redress Scheme, which started on 1 July, 2018 and will run for 10 years.
Mr Morrison said that too many governments and institutions refused to acknowledge the evil dark crimes committed over decades but that “…we apologise for the pain, the suffering, and trauma inflicted upon victims and survivors as children, and for its profound and ongoing impact.”
He acknowledged that the nation had failed to protect the victims of child sexual abuse and went on to say “”As a nation, we failed them, we forsook them, and that will always be our shame. We say sorry.”
Mr Morrison said nothing could be done to right the wrongs inflicted on children.
“Even after a comprehensive Royal Commission, which finally enabled the voices to be heard and the silence to be broken, we will all continue to struggle,” he said.
“So today, we gather in this chamber in humility, not just as representatives of the people of this country, but as fathers, as mothers, as siblings, friends, workmates and, in some cases, indeed, as victims and survivors.”
The Australian government will also commit to reporting every year for the next five years on the progress of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission.
It has already accepted 104 of the Royal Commission’s 122 recommendations, including the redress payments programme, with the other 18 still under examination.
Many survivors and campaigners went to Canberra to hear the apology however, many are still calling for far more work to be done to address the history of abuse.
There are calls from Survivor Groups on the Australian Government to remove a charity tax exemption from institutions that are still deciding whether to opt in to the national redress scheme for victims.
Others have made it clear that while the apology in itself is significant, the real test of the commitment of the Australian Government to protect children in the future will only be measured in how effectively they fully implement and fund the implementation the 122 recommendations of the Royal Commission.
It remains to be seen whether the Australian Government will actually do that.
Authored by Sharon Moohan, Partner