While both sides of the government saying sorry to the victims of child sexual abuse, they must now act on it. No longer will the people tolerate a Royal Commission and a speech.
The apology to victims of child sexual abuse in institutions feels in some ways like the end of a process – public concern, a Royal Commission, hearings and submissions, recommendations and implementation, and finally an apology for what was done and what was not done. But sorry isn’t just something you say, you have to do sorry.
Doing sorry means ensuring that never again will the voices of institutions be allowed to speak over the voices of the vulnerable people that they’ve abused. Never again will the young, the marginalised and vulnerable be swept aside to protect the powerful and important.
Doing sorry means addressing all remaining obstacles to justice for victims of child sexual abuse. There are some already built into the new laws – like the limitations on who can receive redress under the national compensation scheme. Those laws that were made just months ago unfairly exclude thousands of people; they exclude people who have committed criminal offences, and many others who are not Australian citizens or who do not currently live here. That’s not how justice works.
If offences are perpetrated against you it’s inappropriate to suggest you need to pass some kind of character test to qualify for compensation. There are no worthy and unworthy victims, just children who should have been protected and instead who were grossly abused. This argument has even more power when you realise that one quarter of the survivors of child abuse who gave evidence to the Royal Commission had come into contact with the criminal justice system. The fact of their abuse is often one of the principle reasons survivors lives can spiral out of control and they commit offences.
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Doing sorry also means ensuring no one is beyond the arm of the law. It means removing Vatican diplomatic immunity as a relic of a bygone time no longer appropriate to the fair administration of the law. It means refusing to allow the seal of the confessional to be used to shield perpetrators from justice.
We are committed to ensuring that all the recommendations of the Royal Commission are implemented. This requires political will, and ongoing determination. It’s not enough just to have the Royal Commission and then issue an apology – you need to follow through and take every possible step to address the gross injustices raised. As always, there’s plenty more work to do.
We are all so sorry about what happened, the harm that was done, the protection that was not provided, the voices that were not believed. As an MP I am especially sorry for the failure of the political class to hear survivors and act until we were shamed into doing so. We must continue to do sorry until the demands of justice are fully satisfied.