Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he will deliver a national apology to victims of child sexual abuse.
Mr Turnbull’s pledge follows the conclusion of a four-year inquiry that found tens of thousands of children had been abused in Australian institutions.
The crimes, over decades, took place in institutions including churches, schools and sports clubs.
The apology would be given later this year, Mr Turnbull said.
“As a nation, we must mark this occasion in a form that reflects the wishes of survivors and affords them the dignity to which they were entitled as children, but which was denied to them by the very people who were tasked with their care,” he told parliament on Thursday.
The royal commission inquiry, which concluded in December, made more than 400 recommendations, including calling on the Catholic Church to overhaul its celibacy rules.
“It is not a case of a few ‘rotten apples’. Society’s major institutions have seriously failed,” it said.
Mr Turnbull said his government would consult abuse survivors about what should be included in the national apology.
He also called on state governments and institutions to join a national redress scheme for victims.
“We owe it to survivors not to squander this moment,” he said.
The Australian government has already pledged A$30m (£17m; $23m) to the scheme, which would pay victims up to A$150,000 each. It would also provide counselling and other services.
The inquiry heard testimonies from more than 8,000 victims, but it said the true number may never be known.
On Friday, a royal commission inquiry submitted its final report after almost five years of investigations.
Churches, charities, sports clubs, schools and children’s homes – all have come under its microscope, and all have been found wanting.
Victims who were raped, bullied and then belittled for years were finally given a voice by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The question now is what its legacy will be.
“It was very emotional, very draining,” says Phil Nagle, an abuse survivor from Ballarat who gave evidence to the commission in 2015.
“But the way they treated us survivors, it was very caring – it made those that had struggled to tell their story feel comfortable to come forward.”
This has been one of the key achievements of the inquiry – enabling people to report abuse that had been hidden for decades, and to know they would be taken seriously.
More than 2,500 cases have been referred to authorities for investigation, and the support on offer to abuse survivors has improved.
The scope of the inquiry
allegations referred to police since the inquiry began in 2013
- 230 prosecutions have commenced
- 41,770 calls received from members of the public
- 60,000 survivors may be eligible for compensation, estimates say
“Care and compassion has already lifted tenfold,” says Phil Nagle. “We need to make sure we keep people alive and in a good place, by making sure they’ve got the counselling care they need.”