Key messages from the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse


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Content type
Short article

November 2018


Nicole Paterson, Adam Dean

A national apology

On Monday 22 October 2018, the Prime Minister of Australia Hon Scott Morrison MP delivered a national apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse at Parliament House, Canberra. The apology was made in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which delivered its final report to parliament on 15 December 2017.

The national apology, developed through consultation with the survivor-focused National Apology Reference Group and communities throughout Australia, was delivered on behalf of the nation for failing to protect these children from institutional abuse.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the widespread failure to protect these children from abuse and the failure to respond appropriately when the children reported their abuse. ‘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’ said the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also acknowledged, and offered an apology to the parents of the children who were abused, the whistle-blowers and the family members who have been impacted by the abuse and its cover-ups.

A full transcript of the apology is available on the Prime Minister of Australia website.

Australian Government’s response to the Royal Commission

In June 2018, the Australian Government tabled its formal response to address the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The national apology formed part of the Australian Government’s response. The Royal Commission’s key findings and recommendations highlighted:

  • Child safety as a national responsibility
    The Royal Commission found that the Australian Government should develop and establish a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse, to be undertaken by a proposed National Office for Child Safety.1
  • The need to implement child safe standards
    The Royal Commission found that regulatory oversight and practice should be improved to facilitate the implementation of Child Safe Standards in institutions to ensure they create environments that are safe for children, including online environments. Child Safe Standards aims to ensure that ‘children are valued, their rights are respected and their best interests are paramount’. 2
  • The importance of believing children 
    The Royal Commission identified many barriers to children disclosing abuse, including being disbelieved or even punished as a result of a disclosure. The Royal Commission found that adults need be educated in recognising and responding appropriately to behavioural signs or a disclosure of abuse.3
  • Potential for a genuine apology to have a therapeutic benefit
    The Royal Commission found that a genuine apology from institutions responsible for past abuse was important for many survivors to achieve a sense of justice and recognition.4 A genuine apology that includes acknowledgement of the facts and acceptance of responsibility can play a therapeutic and restorative role in the recovery of (some) victims.5

The Australian Government has accepted, or accepted in principle, 104 of the 122 recommendations that have been directed wholly or partially to the Australian Government, with the remaining 18 under further consideration or listed as noted.

Key measures announced by the Australian Government include:

More information about the Australian Government Response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is available on the Attorney-General’s Department website.

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