It is hard to believe that five years have passed since the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse was delivered.
It is hard to believe that – as of the 15 December – six years will have passed since the Royal Commission presented its final report to the Governor-General. To revisit that report today – to again read the personal stories and impacts on victims and their families – is no less heartbreaking than when it was first published. Every one of those personal stories speaks to a national tragedy.
Over the course of 90 years, tens-of-thousands of children were sexually abused in more than 4,000 pubic and private institutions – schools, churches, orphanages, foster homes, healthcare providers, performing arts organisations, sports clubs, the armed forces, youth groups, charities, detention facilities and more besides.
Today, I acknowledge former Prime Minister Julia Gillard who instigated the Royal Commission in 2012. I applaud the Royal Commissioners for their work and the public servants who supported them. I recognise former Prime Minister Scott Morrison who delivered the national apology in 2018 – ‘a sorry that dare not try and make sense of the incomprehensible or think it could.’ I note the work of both the former Coalition government and current Labor government to respond, in true bipartisan spirit, to the Royal Commission’s findings, especially through the National Redress Scheme.
Most of all, on behalf of the Coalition, I commend the 17,000 victims and survivors who shared their terrible stories and provided evidence to the Royal Commission. And to every victim: those who spoke up, those who understandably couldn’t, and to the families of those who ever so sadly took their own lives to end their pain – I express my profound sorrow for what you endured. You had to tolerate the intolerable.
For so many victims and survivors, the passing of time will neither have dulled their torment nor diminished their trauma. But I imagine that every victim and survivor would want our nation to do its utmost to prevent other Australians from suffering similar horrors to those which they endured. And that will be the solemn duty of this Parliament and those yet to come.
22 October 2023