Child Sexual Abuse Survivors to Receive Formal Apology; PM Urges States to Stop Holding out on Redress Scheme
By Louise Yaxley
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
February 8, 2018
Malcolm Turnbull will deliver an apology to survivors of child sexual abuse by the end of this year, and is urging states to join a redress scheme recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Prime Minister announced to Parliament this morning that abuse survivors would be consulted to ensure they were comfortable with the way the apology process is handled.
The royal commission's report was released late last year after a four-year inquiry, and found tens of thousands of children had been sexually abused.
It found the abuse happened in almost every type of institution, including church-run bodies, as well as schools and places run by sporting and cultural groups.
Mr Turnbull said the survivors had relived the worst moments of their lives when they gave evidence — often telling their stories for the first time — so that the abuse would "never be allowed to happen again".
"Now that those stories have been told, now that they are on the record, we must do everything within our power to honour them," he said.
"As a nation, we must mark this occasion in a form that reflects the wishes of survivors and affords them the dignity to which they were entitled as children, but which was denied to them by the very people who were tasked with their care," Mr Turnbull said.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the apology would be a milestone healing event for survivors.
"The horrific circumstances that we are now dealing with came to be because of excuses, excusing the monstrous conduct of individuals, excusing the failures and outrageous wilful blindness of institutions," Mr Porter said.
States urged to join national redress scheme
Mr Turnbull also used his speech to Parliament to warn the states and territories to act quickly so a national redress scheme could be set up by July 1.
"We owe it to survivors not to squander this moment," he said.
State and territory leaders will be in Canberra tomorrow for a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting and Mr Turnbull urged all premiers to prioritise the work and join the scheme as soon as possible.
But some states have been reluctant to sign up to the Commonwealth scheme because they argue there are flaws in the design.
The Prime Minister also told churches and other non-government institutions to join the redress scheme "without further delay".
More than $30 million was promised in the last federal budget to set up the redress scheme, which would pay up to $150,000 to eligible survivors from Commonwealth institutional settings, as well as delivering access to counselling and psychological services.
But until the states agree to sign over their powers to the Commonwealth, other survivors would not be able to use the scheme.
Labor leader Bill Shorten added to the pressure on the states to sign up for the redress scheme.
"As of today, not a single dollar has come from any of the states or the institutions whose names and deeds fill the pages of this report," Mr Shorten said.
"I say to the institutions, and indeed the states: the time for lawyers is over, the time for justice is here."
Mr Shorten said the bulk of the money must come from state governments and the institutions, "who so badly failed their duty of care and trust to children".
Care Leavers Network chief executive Leonie Sheedy said Mr Turnbull issuing the apology on behalf of the nation was very welcome, but the redress scheme was more important.
Ms Sheedy said her organisation was demanding churches, charities and state governments sign up to the national redress scheme by April 1.
She said any church or charity that refused to sign up should lose its tax-free status.