The Federal Government has made its response to the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse’s epic five years of work but the guiding principles of the commission are the same; the objectives so critical to Ballarat; help and heal the victims and ensure that such institutional abuse can never occur again. Some of the responses are worthy; a national apology on October 22, a national office of child safety, and a nationwide study done to determine where abuse is happening now but it has only accepted 104 of 122 recommendations.
Many of the questions directed at Prime Minister Turnbull like many of the headlines will choose to focus on the catholic rite of confession, just one of the 85 recommendations on criminal justice from the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse. The Courier says again, despite the controversy and contention around this historical clash between church and state law, there are far broader objectives at stake here in preventing all future abuse. The Commission noted last year of instances of perpetrators confessing but by far the majority of cases seen in Ballarat were where perpetrators played out their sinister “do-not-tell” pacts and had nothing to do with the pangs of guilt or a need to confess. The question remains if abusers are by their nature unlikely to confess, they are even less likely to do so in a confessional situation with criminal repercussions. Far worse than the oft-targeted secrecy of the confessional, was the whole culture of secrecy which enshrouded the church.
If the words of the Prime Minister to the churches is to be taken seriously : "The safety of children should always be put first," then more than some esoteric ritual needs to be targeted, it is rending the veil of secrecy around all institutions. For it was this wider culture of secrecy, colluded with and reinforced from fear of scandal or reputational damage - in the church or other institutions which caused so much more subsequent damage. There is still a need to look deeper into the cultural conditions, structures and attitudes that grotesquely pervert priorities and forget about the welfare of children.
The PM is right in this, child welfare is all our responsibility, not a simple blame game. We too as a community were once all somewhat to blame for not listening, not treating it seriously enough or lacking the courage to act. This is not collective guilt but collective responsibility to make a better future. Given the wider problem of child abuse, the work is only beginning.