Victims fear abuse royal commission report will be shelved
By Megan Neil
Australian Associated Press, appearing news.com.au
December 10, 2017
|The President of ASCA, Dr Cathy Kezelman.|
|Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council delivers a message at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse into the Catholic Church authorities in Sydney.|
Photo by Jeremy Piper
CHILD abuse victims fear the $500 million royal commission’s final report later this week will be shelved and they may face a battle to get governments to act.
WHILE survivors are grateful their voices have finally been heard and cover-ups exposed, there are concerns over what happens after the five-year institutions sexual abuse inquiry ends on Friday.
There is a lot of hope but also much anxiety and a real lack of certainty, survivor and activist Dr Cathy Kezelman says.
“The inquiry has provided a place where survivors felt that they had people who were looking after their interests,” the Blue Knot Foundation president said. “When the commission goes, who is going to take that position? Who will be able to keep ensuring that there are real changes to institutions, that institutions change in culture and structure and children are safe?
“We’re just hoping that a whole lot of people who put their hearts and souls on the line are not going to be let down.”
Lawyer, researcher and advocate Judy Courtin said many victims were anxious, believing they would have to fight again to get the federal, state and territory governments to implement the inquiry recommendations and put them into law. Dr Courtin was concerned survivors faced another battle once the spotlight and leverage of the commission ended, but hoped governments would act swiftly on its final report.
“I am sure that all governments, state and federal, will do the right thing and promptly implement the recommendations that are so necessary to finally try and bring some justice to victims and their families,” she said. Survivor and campaigner Damian De Marco is pessimistic, fearing the report will be shelved or watered down.
“The history of royal commissions is not necessarily that great. Some things get implemented but a lot of them get shelved,” said Mr De Marco, who was abused at a Marist school in Canberra.
The royal commission has already called for significant reforms across the criminal and civil justice systems, where there has been some progress in setting up a national redress scheme and making it easier for abuse victims to sue for damages.
Many organisations have also implemented reforms, although commission chair Justice Peter McClellan warns there must be changes in the culture, structure and governance practices of institutions if the problems identified by the inquiry are to be adequately addressed.
Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan concedes the Catholic Church still has a way to go in its compliance and oversight regimes around the safeguarding of children, after being involved in “a massive concealment exercise”.
“It is light years away from the days of disregard and concealment, but you would be naive to not accept that better and best practice can continue to be introduced into the church.” Mr Sullivan also argues civil authorities across Australia are not rigorous enough around the protection of children generally, lacking consistent national standards.
“We don’t even have a consistent national law about reporting,” he said. “Governments cannot be lax here and can’t afford to be complacent because the media focus on the church and other places.” The inquiry has uncovered allegations of tens of thousands of children being sexually abused over decades in more than 4000 Australian institutions. The true number of victims will never be known as many never disclose their abuse.
“This has been a chapter in Australia’s history which was not understood or recognised and one hopes we never see a chapter like it,” victims’ advocate and Broken Rites spokesman Wayne Chamley said.