PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has praised child sexual abuse survivors after the Federal Government released its responses to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The government has adopted 104 of 122 recommendations directed at the government, but has only noted a recommendation that the confessional should not exempt Catholic priests from reporting child sexual abuse to police.
“The safety of children should always be put first,” Mr Turnbull said in response to a question about what he, as a Catholic, would say to the church which has objected to the royal commission recommendation on the confessional exemption.
Mr Turnbull praised the courage of survivors and spoke strongly about the obligation of all Australians to protect children.
“If we see children being abused, speak up and speak out,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The survivors that I’ve met, and the personal stories told to me, have given me a small insight into the betrayal by institutions supposed to protect them.”
The government will deliver a formal apology to survivors on October 22 during Children’s Week.
The 104 recommendations directed wholly or in part to the Australian Government were adopted, and the remaining 18 were noted, but not rejected, Mr Turnbull said.
They include recommendations where federal responsibilities cross over to include state governments or other bodies. The recommendations were subject to discussions with the states, Attorney General Christian Porter said.
Mr Turnbull said it was the Federal Government’s expectation that state governments respond appropriately to the royal commission recommendations directed at them.
Mr Turnbull said he had a firm commitment from the Western Australian Government that it would be signing up to the national redress scheme which will take effect from July, making a scheme expected to be available to more than 90 per cent of survivors. A National Office for Child Safety – one of the royal commission’s final recommendations – will also take effect from July 1.
Mr Turnbull praised the royal commissioners for their compassionate responses in what was “harrowing” work for the five years of the royal commission, established in November, 2012 after a campaign led by Hunter survivors.
In its formal response the federal government said the achievements of the royal commission and the commitments in the Australian Government response were a tribute to the survivors and victims of institutional child sexual abuse, their families and supporters.
“Their courage has helped to create a culture of accountability and of trust in children’s voices that will help all of us to take responsibility for keeping children safe and well,” the government response said.
“Cultural change in our institutions and society more broadly, is fundamental to ensuring the safety of our children. Changing our institutional cultures and providing the legal and practical safeguards to support that change will take some time,” the government said.
“Many of Australia’s governments and institutions have already acted to start that change, knowing that giving redress and comfort to survivors and protecting children into the future is urgent and cannot wait. In this response, the Australian Government has recognised and acknowledged that there must be change, but has also highlighted where genuine efforts at reform are being made.”
Mr Turnbull has established a taskforce to track the progress of the royal commission responses which will report in 2020 and again in 2027 on the 10th anniversary of the royal commission’s final report.
Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were sexually abused by a Catholic priest, and whose husband Anthony died while campaigning for abuse survivors, said she and others expected governments to adopt all of the royal commission’s recommendations.
“It’s got to be all or nothing. No cherrypicking,” Mrs Foster said.
“The royal commission wouldn’t have made the recommendations without an exhaustive process, backed by evidence, and we expect all recommendations to be adopted.”
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