ONE of the earliest lessons many children learn once they are able to speak is to say sorry, a first step on a lifelong lesson in making amends for slighting others accidentally or purposefully.
Yet it seems the lesson has not been learned in some groups after a very public lesson. More than 100 institutions are yet to join the redress scheme that followed the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and offers compensation payments capped at $150,000, plus ongoing counselling.
On Wednesday Newcastle federal MP Sharon Claydon, who is also deputy chair of the Senate Committee set up to oversee the redress process, said 51 people had received compensation.
After a royal commission that estimated more than 60,000 abuse survivors came forward and Senate estimates that heard the average payment was $79,000,
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher says survivors have lodged roughly 2700 applications for redress, but nearly half of the organisations they relate to have failed to sign up to the scheme.
The list includes the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, who have indicated they intend to join by the end of the month, as well as the Catholic Sisters of St Joseph at Lochinvar, who also intend to join this year.
Hunter Aboriginal Children's Service, St John Ambulance and Swimming Australia are also on the list.
In November, senate hearings in Newcastle heard the failure of institutions to sign on had raised concerns that ill or elderly abuse victims may not live to see the redress they deserved.
“It [the redress scheme] has to be done right. It has to be open-hearted and kind. At the moment it has the dead hand of lawyers and bureaucrats all over it,” witness and Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy told the inquiry.
It is difficult to disagree. Without reparations for those who suffered at the hands of the institutional abuse revealed in the royal commission, apologies sound hollow.
While money is unlikely to salve wounds that reach back decades, it does offer a penalty to the organisations who failed so many. It also offers validation to those whose suffering was in many cases denied and hidden for so long.
Given the institutional failures that have plagued the lives of those awaiting results here, it is devastating that bureaucracy and delay may bring them further pain through indifference.
In this week, when it was revealed a survivor's bravery had brought Australia's most recognisable Catholic to justice in court, the slow progress is particularly galling.
Public shaming is not always a route to justice. Journalist Jon Ronson wrote that it was a punishment that fell out of practice for individuals because it was too brutal.
But in the case of institutions, the government increasing pressure on organisations to do such a simple and right thing for those they wronged is hard to criticise.