Prime Minister announces national apology for abuse victims

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers his statement. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers his statement. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced he will deliver a national apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

In a speech made in Federal Parliament on Thursday, Mr Turnbull said a survivor-focused reference group would be appointed to advise on the form and content of the apology, which he will make by the end of the year. 

Ballarat clergy survivor Philip Nagle welcomed the pledge and said the day would be both emotional and satisfying for survivors.

He hoped it would make more people aware and compassionate towards survivors.

“For this to never happen again it needs to go down in history,” Mr Nagle said. 

“And (the apology) will certainly give it the clout it needs to make sure it’s never forgotten and to try and keep things in place for it to never happen again.”

Mr Nagle also praised Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who made a plea for action.

“He said the time is over for lawyers and the time for justice is here and I thought that was a very fair and just comment because we’re sick of these institutions spending more money on lawyers than what they would need to fix the problem,” he said.

Mr Turnbull also updated the chamber on the redress scheme for survivors due to roll out from July 1.

The scheme fulfils a key recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which handed down its findings in December.

But abuse survivor Tony Wardley had reservations about the apology and redress scheme, saying action was what ultimately counted.

Mr Wardley questioned the similarities between the redress scheme and the Catholic Church's Towards Healing guidelines, while he said payments capped at $150,000 had been grossly underestimated. 

“If you’re that damaged there is no justice in that,” Mr Wardley said. 

“No one has even got any medical coverage, even though it has been proved survivors have multiple health and psychiatric problems… there is just nothing to help us out. 

“If you look at the Irish redress scheme it embarrasses Australia… Australia is doing the minimum possible.”

But Mr Turnbull has urged the states, territories and non-government organisations not to delay signing up to the redress scheme.

Francis Sullivan from the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has backed the prime minister’s call and said church leaders were already on board.

“Many (survivors) have died never receiving the apologies and the redress that should have been theirs many years ago,” he said.

Mr Turnbull will discuss the scheme with state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments Meeting on Friday.