Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday apologised to victims of children sexual abuse over the government’s failure to protect them, Reuters reported. The rare apology follows the conclusion of a five-year-long investigation into more than 8,000 cases that found governments, schools, sporting clubs, churches and other institutions failed to keep children safe.
“We believe you,” Morrison said, while addressing victims, survivors and their families in Parliament. “Today, we confront a question too horrible to ask, let alone answer – why were not the children of our nation loved, nurtured and protected? Why was their trust betrayed?”
The government has set up a redressal scheme that will compensate victims of abuse with up to $1,06,000 each. The conservative government is yet to take a call on adopting the 409 recommendations made by the institutional child sexual abuse commission.
Among the suggestions is a proposal to ensure that Catholic priests report child abuse they learn about in the confessional. In August, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said it would not comply with the recommendation. The Catholic authority had said breaking the seal of confession was “contrary to our faith and inimical to religious liberty”.
The prime minister’s apology reportedly moved several survivors to tears. “A sorry from a nation that seeks to reach out in compassion into the darkness, where you have lived for so long. Nothing we can do now will right the wrongs inflicted on our nation’s children,” Morrison said.
In 2008, Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister at the time, had apologised to members of the Stolen Generations of Indigenous Australians, who were forcibly taken from their families as young children under assimilation policies.