PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull is to deliver a national apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse on October 22.
“Now we have uncovered the shocking truth we must do everything in our power to honour the bravery of the thousands of people who came forward,” Mr Turnbull said, announcing the Federal Government’s formal response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which delivered its final report last December.
Mr Turnbull said 104 of the Commission’s 122 recommendations directed at the Commonwealth had been accepted either wholly or in part.
The remaining 18 recommendations had not been rejected, but required coordination with state or local authorities.
The Royal Commission delivered 409 recommendations and 84 related to a redress scheme.
“Our expectation is that other governments and institutions will respond to each of the Commissions recommendations … indicating what action they will take in response,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We have to do everything possible to make sure children are safe in institutions. We must ensure those who suffered abuse have access to redress.”
Mr Turnbull is confident a national redress scheme will be up and running by July 1 after the government in Western Australian agreed to participate.
The maximum payment will be $150,000.
A national office for child safety will also start operating from July 1 to progress a national framework for child safety and develop principles for child-safe organisations.
“The Royal Commission has made it very clear that we all have a role to play to keep our children safe – governments, schools sporting clubs, churches, charitable organisations and of course all of us – we all have a vested interest in the safety of other people’s children not just our own,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Those children are our future. We owe it to them that they are protected.”
Bishops to receive response from Vatican officials
Brisbane Archbishop and president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Mark Coleridge, said he would meet Vatican officials next week to discuss the Church’s response to the Royal Commission recommendations.
“They have received the full report of the Royal Commission and the final report from (the Catholic Church’s) Truth Justice and Healing Council,” Archbishop Coleridge said as he prepared for a 10-day visit to Rome.
“What I’m keen to discuss with them is a mechanism whereby the Bishops of Australia can respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission that concern the Holy See and not just Australia.
“There are 12 recommendations that ask the Bishops of Australia to approach the Holy See on various matters.”
The most controversial of the commission recommendations would require priests to break the seal of confession to report a child-sex abuser.
The Catholic Church teaches that confession is a sacrament, a place of encounter between the Christian and Jesus Christ.
The priest who hears the confession is merely Christ’s instrument of forgiveness.
“We have to be realistic – what is and is not possible,” Archbishop Coleridge said, ahead of discussions with officials.
“I will put to them in a formal way those 12 recommendations that concern the Holy See, and explore with people there what is and what is not possible.
“We’ve made it clear the seal itself is inviolable. So there’s no room for negotiation on that point.
“We’ve worked collaboratively with governments through the time of the Royal Commission and we want to work collaboratively now, but we have to do that with a sense of realism keeping in mind the protection of children is paramount.
“And with the seal the question is ‘would it make children any safer to abolish this legally? The answer is no in our view’ and we will put that as clearly and compellingly as we can.”
Archbishop Coleridge said he would also discuss “the situation of the Church in Adelaide which has been difficult with the trial of Archbishop (Philip) Wilson”.
“My hope is that we can really promote the dialogue between the bishops’ Conference in Australia and the Holy See, because things that are going on here are not just about Australia – they concern the Church around the world, and the Vatican is very aware of that.”
“We’re seeking to help the Holy See, and I know the Holy See is very willing to work with us, to help us find a way through the challenges of the current time.”