On October 22nd this year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to deliver a national apology to the victims of institutional child sexual abuse. The news comes after the Catholic Church announced that it was signing up the national redress scheme for victims of institutionalised child sex abuse.
Prime Minister Turnbull gave an outline of the Federal Governments official response to the 5 year long Royal Commission regarding Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. Mr Turnbull said that 104 of 122 recommendations relating to the Government would be accepted, one of which was the establishment of a national child safety office.
Of the other 18 recommendations, Mr Turnbull said that they were being considered but that none of them had been rejected. One such recommendation seeks to make it illegal to fail to report that a child is at risk of sexual abuse but it requires all states and territories to agree on the legal wording.
The commission recommended that priests be forced to report any information revealed to them via confession. This contentious proposal is supported by Christian Porter, the Federal Attorney General.
However, the Australian Catholic Bishops Office said that it had not seen any evidence that suggested removing confidentiality from confession would improve safety for children.
Mr Turnbull also confirmed that Western Australia would join the national redress scheme, being the last state or territory to participate. Mark McGowan, the Premier of Western Australia, said that the state intends to join the redress scheme but the decision needed to go before the Cabinet.
Mr Turnbull also paid tribute to the survivors of child sex abuse and their families for their honesty and courage in coming forward. He said that “the wrongdoers have been brought to account” and that the victim’s “courage” helped to “expose the scale” of child sex abuse across Australian institutions.
On July 1, a national child safety office and the national redress scheme to compensate victims will begin. Dan Tehan, the Social Services Minister, said that approximately 93% of victims were covered under the redress scheme.
While noting that the maximum payment of $150,000 is lower than the $200,000 recommended by the royal commission, Mr Tehan said that the average per person would be higher than initially called for.
He said that while the commission recommended that $60,000 was the appropriate average payout, the Government has accepted the figure as $76,000. The Government has expressed that there was a “relatively low threshold” for applying for compensation and that the scheme was not designed to be fought over in courtrooms.
Religious institutions and the states are expected to respond the commission’s findings this month.