Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Prime Minister for his heartfelt words.
I join with him to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.
It’s hard to believe, of course, that – as of the 22nd of October – five years have passed since Prime Minister Morrison delivered the National Apology.
It’s hard to believe that – as of the 15th of December – six years will have passed since the Royal Commission presented its final report to the Governor-General.
Yet to revisit that report today – to again read the personal stories and impacts on victims and their families – is no less breathtaking than when it was first published.
In volume 13, for example, there is ‘Amelia’s’ story.
She recounted her experience as an 11-year-old primary school student in the 1970s.
Amelia’s deputy principal had singled-out her and four of her female pupils.
He promised to make them prefects when they reached Year 6, provided they stay after class and read aloud to him.
The Royal Commission report says, and I quote:
‘… he stood up and walked over to her. He put his hand under her skirt and commanded her to open her legs… ‘Amelia’ and the other girls were abused once a week for one year.’
I have omitted the more confronting parts of that account.
But frankly, we only do a service to perpetrators of this evil crime if we don’t speak frankly about the depravity of their actions.
It's an uncomfortable subject.
It’s difficult to talk about.
But we must be upfront and frank and open.
This is the advice of many child protection advocates, including the Morcombe Foundation.
We have to have that conversation.
It is a crime type that we don’t see on our television screens of a nighttime.
We don’t see the CCTV footage from a stolen vehicle doing a ramraid somewhere.
It's a crime that largely goes unspoken.
But it’s important that we hear the detail, as confronting as it might be.
Now, this account is just one person’s terrible experience among tens of thousands of children who have been sexually abused in more than 4,000 institutions over the course of 90 years.
Every one of these personal accounts speaks to a national tragedy as the Prime Minister rightly pointed out.
As we commemorate this 5th anniversary of the National Apology, I want to pay tribute to several people.
I acknowledge the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who instigated the Royal Commission in 2012.
The Royal Commissioners – and the public servants who supported them – listened to more than 8,000 stories, 1,000 submitted written accounts, and more than 42,000 phone calls.
I recognise former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who made the National Apology in this place in 2018.
As he eloquently put it then, it was, and I quote: ‘a sorry that dare not try and make sense of the incomprehensible or think it could.’
I thank my Coalition colleagues – past and present – for responding to the Royal Commission’s findings and the actions we took as a government to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse.
We implemented strategies. We funded initiatives. And we created institutions like the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.
I express the Opposition’s gratitude to the Albanese Government for carrying on the important work, especially through the National Redress Scheme.
More than 31,800 applications have been received.
Around 13,800 are finalised.
And more than 13,000 payments totalling more than $1.1 billion dollars have been made.
I note, too, that the Government has released its final response to the final report of the second-year review of the National Redress Scheme.
The Opposition thanks and supports the Government’s commitment to improving the Scheme for survivors – building on the efforts of the former Coalition Government.
But most importantly today, I want to again commend the 17,000 victims and survivors who shared their terrible stories and provided evidence to the Royal Commission.
As a House today we salute your courage.
And to every victim:
Those who spoke up.
Those who understandably couldn’t.
And those who, ever so sadly, took their own lives to end the pain.
We, as a House, express our sorrow for what you endured – that you had to tolerate the intolerable.
And we recognise that your suffering was a result of failures, of many failures, through society:
Failures in our institutions.
Failures in our criminal justice and child welfare systems.
And failures in the leadership.
And so many victims and survivors, it means that the passing of time will neither have dulled their torment nor diminished their trauma.
But I imagine every victim and survivor would want our nation to do its utmost to prevent other Australians from suffering similar horrors to those which they endured.
Prime Minister, we extend the offer again today of bipartisanship for our country to commit to a Royal Commission in relation to child sexual abuse within Indigenous communities.
No Australian is naïve enough to believe that this crime type is not still taking place in homes, in classrooms, in churches around the country, but the prevalence within Indigenous communities is significant and not to be ignored.
Now is a time to do what is right.
Now is a time to act with courage.