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Scott Morrison's national apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse

Category: Gender based violence 
2018-10-22

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reached out to Australians "crushed, abused, discarded and forgotten" and promised action in the Parliament's historic national apology to the survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.

"To the children we failed, sorry. 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," Mr Morrison told the Parliament.


Hundreds of abuse survivors came to Canberra on Monday to hear the apology, a recommendation of the royal commission established by former prime minister Julia Gillard, who was also in the audience.

"Today, Australia confronts a trauma, an abomination, hiding in plain sight for far too long," Mr Morrison said.


"Silenced voices. Muffled cries in the darkness. Unacknowledged tears. The tyranny of invisible suffering. The never heard pleas of tortured souls, bewildered by an indifference to the unthinkable theft of their innocence."

Addressing survivors, the Prime Minister said it was a sorry that dare not ask for forgiveness but rather "seeks to reach out in compassion into the darkness, where you have lived for so long" and assured them: "I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you."

Mr Morrison listed the many institutions where abuse has taken place – "anywhere a predator thought they could get away with it and the systems within these organisations allowed it to happen and turned a blind eye" – and was notably emotional about the crimes at religious institutions.

 

"I am angry too at the calculating destruction of lives and the abuse of trust, including those who have abused the shield of faith and religion to hide their crimes, a shield that is supposed to protect the innocent, not the guilty," said the Prime Minister, a devout Christian.

 

"We can never promise a world where there are no abusers but we can promise a country where we commit to hear and believe our children."

Quoting a survivor who said "an apology without action is just a piece of paper", Mr Morrison noted the work government was doing in response to the royal commission, especially the national redress scheme.

Joining the Prime Minister in the apology, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told survivors they were believed and condemned institutions that covered up abuse.

"We are sorry for every childhood stolen, for every life lost. We are sorry for every betrayal of trust, every abuse of power. We are sorry for trauma measures in decades, for scars that will never heal. We are sorry for every cry for help that fell on deaf ears and hard hearts. We are sorry for every crime that was not investigated, every criminal who went unpunished. And we are sorry for every time you were not heard and not believed," Mr Shorten said.

 

"It was never your fault," he told survivors. "Not then, not now. You have nothing to be ashamed of. There was nothing wrong with you and you did nothing wrong."

The Opposition Leader said the apology belonged to people whose lives had been ruined by their abuse and the royal commission was a singular opportunity to act for them.

"We have the power, the authority and the responsibility to turn these recommendations into actions, without caveats or compromise."


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