Key messages from the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
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:
- National Office for Child Safety
- National Redress Scheme
- National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
- Commonwealth Child Safe Framework
- Australian Government support for a database to share working with children checks outcomes
- Guiding Principles for Commonwealth entities when responding to civil claims concerning allegations of child sexual abuse
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.
- Protection through participation: Involving children in child-safe organisations
This CFCA practitioner resource provides practical guidance on creating child-safe organisations based on what children and young people have said themselves.
- Understanding safeguarding practices for children with disability when engaging with organisations
This CFCA practitioner resource explores how an understanding of abuse and neglect relating to children with disability can assist in establishing child-safe organisations.
- What is child abuse and neglect?
This CFCA resource sheet provides an overview of child abuse and neglect terminology, including a general definition of child abuse and neglect, and definitions of the five commonly regarded subtypes.
- Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse
This CFCA resource sheet outlines what we know about how, why and when children and young people are likely to disclose abuse and suggests actions to take at the time of disclosure and in the longer term.
- Responding to disclosures of child abuse and neglect
This CFCA webinar provided an overview of recent research on how to support and respond to children's disclosures of abuse and neglect.
- Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect
This CFCA resource sheet provides information about who is required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect to government child protection authorities.
Feature image supplied by the Attorney-General’s Department.