IT’S been a tough year at the end of several decades of tough years for Chrissie Foster, who campaigned for a royal commission into child sexual abuse after two of her daughters were raped by a Catholic priest.
Her husband, Anthony, died suddenly in June, a decade after the overdose death of one of their daughters who was five when she was raped.
But a speech by Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chair Justice Peter McClellan on Tuesday cut through the grief and “hit home”, Mrs Foster said.
Justice McClellan said there was evidence of an “understanding” in the past that police would protect church child sex offenders because it would be detrimental if “pillars” of society were exposed as criminals.
He said the failure to protect children was not limited to churches and other institutions, but “some of our most important state instrumentalities have failed”, including police and the criminal justice system.
“This is what we’ve wanted to hear, this truth,” Mrs Foster said.
“It’s dreadful, it’s obscene, that on one hand we have laws against child sexual abuse and on the other hand they weren’t being applied to certain powerful people in society. It seems the ordinary person was punished for committing these crimes but there were certain positions of power that were immune.
“Children were the least powerful people in our society and people in power were just helping themselves, while other people in power weren’t stopping them.
“It’s a disaster. It’s a tragedy, and the taxpayer is now paying as we try to help people get on with their lives.”
Mrs Foster said the government had to implement recommendations of the royal commission final report, which will be handed to Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove on December 15.
It had to ensure a national redress scheme was established, using church and government funding, in line with the royal commission’s recommendations and to provide a measure of justice to victims and survivors, she said.
“Justice McClellan’s address should be easily understood by ordinary Australians who recognise this national tragedy for what it is – abuses of power across a range of institutions,” Mrs Foster said.
“The way forward is for governments to take the royal commission’s recommendations and implement them. This is the most advanced look at this crime in the whole world. We should make this country the world leader in protecting children, because we’ve learnt from what’s happened to our children in the past.
“It’s our responsibility, and it’s our governments’ responsibility not to listen to the old voices from the past who want to deny and minimise what has happened, but to learn from the royal commission’s forensic examination of how it happened, and how to protect children in future.”