Scott Morrison Apologises To Survivors Of Institutional Child Sex Abuse
After decades of feeling shamed and silenced, survivors of child sexual abuse in Australia’s institutions held hands as they heard the words some thought they may never hear.
Hundreds gathered at Parliament House in Canberra where Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
In the House of Representatives, he addressed the "silenced voices, muffled cries in the darkness, unacknowledged tears and the tyranny of invisible suffering" of those who suffered abuse over decades in orphanages, children's homes, schools, churches and sports clubs.
"Today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice. And, again, today, we say sorry, to the children we failed, sorry," Morrison said.
"To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.
"To the whistleblowers, who we did not listen to, sorry. To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands, children, who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry.
"To generations past and present, sorry."
The prime minister said the nation was confronting a trauma and "an abomination hiding in plain sight for far too long".
"Today, we confront key questions: Why weren't the children of our nation loved, nurtured and protected? Why was their trust betrayed? Why did those who know cover it up?
"Why were the cries of children and parents ignored? Why was our system of justice blind to injustice? Why has it taken so long to act?"
It’s a gesture, and a key recommendation, that follows the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Morrison acknowledged the work of his predecessors, former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, who received applause in the House for establishing the royal commission.
Later, sitting in the Great Hall among survivors and their family and friends, she thanked them for their "courage, determination and stoicism" to come forward.
"It took many years to get to this moment, but we're only at it not because of me, but because of you," she said.
But despite a "comprehensive royal commission" which "finally enabled the voices to be heard and the silence to be broken", Morrison acknowledged the ongoing struggle.
He said the apology was one that dare not ask for forgiveness but "seeks to reach out in compassion into the darkness, where you have lived for so long".
"I simply say I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you."
Earlier, survivor Rhonda Janetzki, who made the trip to Canberra with her husband Roy told ten daily the acknowledgement would be "overwhelming".
“What happened to us was criminal," she said, noting the royal commission was the first time she felt believed.
This was reaffirmed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
"It was never your fault," he said.
"Not then, not now. You have nothing to be ashamed of. There was nothing wrong with you and you did nothing wrong."
He condemned the institutions which perpetuated the abuse and hoped the day would be looked back on as a "redoubled commitment to action".
The government has accepted 104 of the 122 recommendations, with the other 18 being closely examined in consultation with states and territories.
The prime minister committed to reporting to Parliament each year for the next five years on the progress being made.
He said those institutions "which perpetuated the abuse, covered it up and refused to be held accountable" must be kept on the hook, and called on those who had not yet signed onto the National Redress Scheme to stand up.
"Today, I simply say justice, decency and the beliefs and values we share as Australians insists that they sign on," Morrison said.
Support groups considered the National Redress Scheme, where survivors can seek redress from their offenders through compensation, counselling or a personal apology, the "elephant in the room" ahead of Monday's ceremony.
Additional measures, including a national museum to reflect and raise awareness around the impacts of child sexual abuse, were announced as the prime minister tabled the formal apology to Parliament.