Australia sexual abuse: National apology delivered to victims

Australia PM Scott Morrison delivers the apology in parliament

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Scott Morrison delivers the national apology in parliament on Monday

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given a national apology to victims of child sexual abuse.

Hundreds of people gathered in Canberra on Monday to hear Mr Morrison deliver the emotional address in parliament.

It follows a five-year inquiry which found tens of thousands of children had suffered abuse in the nation’s institutions over decades.

“Today, we finally acknowledge and confront the lost screams of our children,” he said.

“We must be so humble to fall before those who were forsaken and beg to them our apology.”

The inquiry, which concluded last December, heard more than 8,000 testimonies from victims about abuse in organisations such as churches, schools and sports clubs.

With his voice trembling at times, Mr Morrison acknowledged the suffering of victims and condemned institutional failures.

“Why were the cries of children and parents ignored? Why was our system of justice blind to injustice? Why has it taken so long to act?” he said.

‘Evil, dark crimes’ – excerpt from PM’s apology

As one survivor recently said to me: “It wasn’t a foreign enemy who did this to us. This was done by Australians to Australians, enemies in our midst, enemies in our midst.”

The enemies of innocence.

It happened day after day, week after week, month after month, decade after decade, unrelenting torment.

When a child spoke up, they weren’t believed and the crimes continued with impunity.

One survivor told me that when he told a teacher of his abuse, that teacher then became his next abuser: trust broken, innocence betrayed, power and position exploited for evil, dark crimes.

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Hundreds of people gathered in Canberra to hear the apology

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten told the parliament: “There are wrongs that cannot be made right. But know that today Australia says sorry.”

The parliament stood for a minute of silence following both leaders’ speeches.

Action urged

Support groups said victims and their supporters had travelled from around the nation to hear the apology in the parliament’s galleries.

“They are coming with very heavy hearts,” said Leonie Sheedy, the chief executive of Care Leavers Australasia Network.

“It is a wonderful thing our country’s apologising, but there is so much more work to be done.”

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A sculpture acknowledging abuse victims outside Australia’s parliament on Monday

Many survivors have criticised the government’s response to the inquiry – especially over the terms of a national compensation scheme.

Victims are eligible to apply for payments of up to A$150,000 (£80,000; $106,000) each.

Mr Morrison said the government had accepted most recommendations from the inquiry, adding that the remaining proposals were still under consideration.

He also committed to establishing a national museum of remembrance to memorialise victims’ stories.

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Messages from survivors were published by the inquiry last year

In August, the Catholic Church formally rejected one recommendation made by the inquiry that priests should be forced to report sexual abuse disclosed during confession.

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