PM national apology pledge and redress divides opinion

SUPPORT: Survivor Brett Mathews believes the proposed plans are mostly positive but that more alternative forms of therapy and support are needed to help victims recover. Picture: Lachlan Bence
SUPPORT: Survivor Brett Mathews believes the proposed plans are mostly positive but that more alternative forms of therapy and support are needed to help victims recover. Picture: Lachlan Bence

“It is all talk at the moment,” said one Ballarat survivor in response to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s apology pledge as he issued a formal response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday.

“I don’t have a lot of trust or faith in government, or the redress scheme,” she said. “It’s not about the money and it won’t go far. Some of us will need counselling all our lives.”

LOUD fence founder and advocate Margaret Hatcher agreed.

“I applaud the PM in the decision to have a National Apology but from discussions I've had, it seems survivors are divided in their thoughts about it … some hope it will help them heal, some feel the redress scheme is not adequate, and some (who were abused in Catholic institutions) believe it is the Church who should be apologising,” she said.

Ballarat clergy abuse survivor Dominic Ridsdale agrees. “I don’t think it is the Government that should be apologising. The Catholic Church and the other institutions are getting off lightly.” However, he was pleased about the planned National Office for Child Safety.

“We need to get the message out to everyone, especially children … to speak up, to tell their parents. The more educated people are, the more we can stop it happening to children in the future, he said.

State school abuse survivor Brett Mathews said he was in two minds about the apology. 

“No prime minister is perfect, but I think it comes from the heart. There’s sincerity there.” Mr Mathews said he believed there had to be ongoing help for abuse survivors and more forms of alternative therapy offered.

Victorian spokesperson for the Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) Forum, Carolyn Worth, said the Office for Child Safety was a good idea. “Yes, it does mean another layer of bureaucracy but it means there will be a point of reference and  all the resources in one place.

“The recommendations are a huge ask for any government and they haven’t buried it … there’s a lot of good will on this issue.”

Ms Worth said Victoria was well serviced with 11 CASAs and that they had been supporting survivors from the start of the Commission and would continue to do so. 

Von, a survivor of abuse from Macarthur St Primary School, said she was “happy to hear the government follow through with its intention to deliver a national apology to survivors of institutional child sex abuse.” 

She was not as positive about redress. “The government needs to acknowledge the Royal Commission as the experts. $200,000 wasn’t a figure they plucked out of the air … it was how much they deemed should be the top end of compensation.”