'We failed them': Australia apologises to child sex abuse victims

CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a national
apology to victims of child sex abuse in an emotional address to
parliament Monday (Oct 22) acknowledging the state failed to stop "evil
dark crimes" committed over decades.

"This was done by Australians to Australians, enemies in our midst,
enemies in our midst," Morrison told parliament in a nationally
televised address.

"As a nation, we failed them, we forsook them, and that will always be
our shame," he said, his voice cracking as he recounted abuse that
permeated religious and state-backed institutions.

Decrying abuse that happened "day after day, week after week, month
after month, year after year, decade after decade" in schools, churches,
youth groups, scout groups, orphanages, sports clubs and family homes,
Morrison declared a new national credo in the face of allegations: "We
believe you."

"Today, we say sorry, to the children we failed. Sorry. To the parents
whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces.
Sorry. To the whistleblowers, who we did not listen to. Sorry.

"To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands, children, who have dealt
with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction. Sorry. To
generations past and present. Sorry."

The state apology comes after a five-year Royal Commission that detailed
more than 15,000 survivors' harrowing child sex abuse claims involving
thousands of institutions.

In parliament, lawmakers stood for a moment of silence following the
remarks as hundreds of survivors looked on or watched in official events
across the country.

Normal parliamentary business, a session of prime minister's questions, was suspended in a bipartisan show of respect.

Outside the parliamentary chamber, relatives of victims wore tags with
the names of departed daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, for whom
the apology came too late.

After meeting some of the victims, Morrison told journalists "I've never felt such pain in one room, ever."

A series of Australian institutions have already apologised for their
failings, including Australian Catholic leaders who have lamented the
church's "shameful" history of child abuse and cover-ups.

According to the Royal Commission, seven percent of Catholic priests in
Australia were accused of abuse between 1950 and 2010, but the
allegations were rarely investigated, with child victims ignored and
even punished.

Some senior members of the church in Australia have been prosecuted in relation to the abuse.


The Australian government has previously issued formal apologies for the
mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians, for forced adoptions and
homosexual convictions.

There are growing calls for an apology for the military's treatment of gay, bisexual and transgender personnel.

For many Australians there will still be questions about how the child sex abuse and cover-ups took place.

And for some of the victims, the government's atonement rings hollow - a
step short of removing public funding for offending institutions, or
far-ranging legal reforms.

At an event attended by the leaders of both major political parties,
protesters shouted demands that the government do more to punish the
guilty and dig into the past of other institutions like the military.

"Today's apology to victims of institutional child abuse highlights the
power of a public apology to heal past wounds," said Professor Noah
Riseman of the Australian Catholic University.

"But in the midst of today's acknowledgement there was a reminder that
other victims of institutional trauma remain unacknowledged."

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