This morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a long-awaited national apology to thousands of victims of child sexual assault; off the back of a five-year Royal Commission which saw 57 public hearings, and heartbreaking testimony from 8,013 private sessions.
“Today Australia confronts a trauma, an abomination, that’s been hiding in plain sight for too long,” he said.
“We are sorry for every time that you were not heard, and not believed. We hear you now. We believe you. Australia believes you. And we are sorry it has taken so long to say these words. We are sorry for wrongs that can never be made right.
We are sorry that you and your brothers and sisters have been left to fight for justice, respect and dignity on your own. You should not be alone any longer. Australia is with you.
We honour every survivor in this country. We love you, we honour you and we hear you.”
It is the first time a government has ever apologised for its past leadership failures, as well as on the part of religious-institutions and other community organisations to keep children safe, and to respond quickly and sensitively to allegations made.
Hundreds of victims milled into Parliament House to hear the PM speak, and a follow-up address from opposition leader, Bill Shorten, who said:
“Today, we offer you our nation’s apology, with humility, with honesty, with hope for healing now, and with a fire in our belly to ensure that our children will grow up safe in the future.
We do this because it is right, because it is overdue, because Australians must know and face up to a truth about our past. But above all, we do this because of you. I say to you here in the galleries, here in the Great Hall, on the lawns, and beyond, I say to you in the big cities and country towns, today is because of you.
Today is because of your advocates, your networks, your organisations, and your leadership. It is you who bravely fought the long battle for justice, for recognition, for truth to be believed. It is you who have brought this day into being. It is you who kept coming forward again and again.
You dug beneath scar tissue. You told strangers and people in power of the most terrifying moments in your memory. Our fellow Australians should understand that you’ve given so much of yourselves through your stories. But it was never for yourself, never for your own sake.”
A national redress scheme has already been announced and will provide victims access to a direct personal response, psychological counselling and compensation of up to $150,000.
Morrison likewise announced the implementation of a National Centre of Excellence to raise awareness about the impacts of child sexual assault; to prevent stigma, research best practice and to make sure victims are adequately and at all times supported.
In an interview yesterday, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard– who established the Royal Commission during her tenure– said governments were obliged to exercise “due diligence and judicious decision-making to bring the royal commission’s recommendations to life.”
Both Morrison and Shorten acknowledged Gillard’s commitment to bringing these atrocities to light and leading the way toward national healing.