Turn­bull to de­liver na­tional apol­ogy for child sex­ual abuse

The Guardian Australia - - News - Melissa Davey

Prime min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has pledged to de­liver a na­tional apol­ogy to the sur­vivors, vic­tims and fam­i­lies of in­sti­tu­tional child sex­ual abuse and said his govern­ment has so far ac­cepted 104 of the 122 rec­om­men­da­tions made by the royal com­mis­sion.

The prime min­is­ter made the an­nounce­ment in Can­berra on Wed­nes­day, with the dead­line for the govern­ment to re­spond to the royal com­mis­sion’s find­ings set for June 30. The re­main­ing 18 rec­om­men­da­tions from the royal com­mis­sion are still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion, he said.

Turn­bull will de­liver the na­tional apol­ogy on 22 Oc­to­ber to co­in­cide with na­tional chil­dren’s week.

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The govern­ment will also cre­ate a na­tional of­fice for child safety com­menc­ing on 1 July, which was a key rec­om­men­da­tion from the royal com­mis­sion. A com­mon­wealth child safety frame­work was be­ing de­vel­oped, and child safety checks would also be na­tion­alised, Turn­bull said.

There were 409 rec­om­men­da­tions made by the com­mis­sion when it de­liv­ered its find­ings in De­cem­ber, with 122 of those di­rectly or partly in­volv­ing the fed­eral govern­ment.

“It’s been har­row­ing work,” Turn­bull said. “And the com­pas­sion and the re­spect shown by the royal com­mis­sion­ers and their staff for this process has set us on a path­way to real change. Now that we’ve un­cov­ered the shock­ing truth, we must do ev­ery­thing in our power to hon­our the brav­ery of the thou­sands of peo­ple who came for­ward.”

A na­tional preva­lence study will also be con­ducted through the na­tional of­fice for child safety to bet­ter un­der­stand the scale of child sex­ual abuse. A task force has also been es­tab­lished to track the progress made by the fed­eral, state and ter­ri­tory gov­ern­ments in meet­ing the royal com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions. The task force will re­main in place un­til 2020 and will re­port an­nu­ally in De­cem­ber un­til 2022 with a com­mit­ment to con­duct a 10-year review in 2027.

Of the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions, 84 re­lated to a re­dress scheme for sur­vivors and how it should be im­ple­mented. The so­cial ser­vices min­is­ter, Dan Tehan, said on Wed­nes­day now that all state and ter­ri­tory gov­ern­ments had signed up to the scheme, along with the Catholic, Angli­can and Unit­ing churches, 93% of sur­vivors were cov­ered.

“The leg­is­la­tion is through the house of House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. It will go through the Se­nate in the com­ing fort­night and our hope is Se­nate pas­sage will­ing, we will have the na­tional re­dress scheme up and run­ning as of 1 July,” Tehan said.

The scheme caps pay­ments at $150,000, though the com­mis­sion rec­om­mended a cap of $200,000. A Se­nate in­quiry is cur­rently re­view­ing the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

“Re­dress is not com­pen­sa­tion, how­ever, it does ac­knowl­edge the hurt and harm sur­vivors suf­fered, and it will en­sure in­sti­tu­tions take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the abuse that oc­curred on their watch by the peo­ple that worked for them,” Turn­bull said.

“The royal com­mis­sion has made very clear that we all have a role to play to keep our chil­dren safe. Gov­ern­ments, schools, sport­ing clubs, churches, char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions and, of course, all of us. We all have a vested in­ter­est in the safety of other peo­ple’s chil­dren, not just our own. We owe it to them to en­sure that they are pro­tected.”

The royal com­mis­sion also made a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions that would in­volve the Vatican. These in­cluded that the Aus­tralian Catholic Church should re­quest per­mis­sion from the Vatican to in­tro­duce vol­un­tary celibacy for dioce­san clergy, and that the can­di­dates for re­li­gious min­istry should un­dergo ex­ter­nal psy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing, in­clud­ing psy­cho­sex­ual as­sess­ment, to de­ter­mine their suit­abil­ity to be in the min­istry and to un­der­take work in­volv­ing chil­dren.

The com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended that child abuse dis­closed dur­ing Catholic con­fes­sion should be re­ported to po­lice.

Guardian Australia con­tacted the Vatican last week and asked if it was con­sid­er­ing the royal com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions and if it had been ap­proached by the Aus­tralian Catholic Church, but did not re­ceive a re­sponse.

Pho­to­graph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Mal­colm Turn­bull says the govern­ment will cre­ate a na­tional of­fice into child safety, one of the key rec­om­men­da­tions from the royal com­mis­sion.

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