Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a formal apology yesterday to Australia's victims of child sex abuse, saying the nation must acknowledge their long, painful journey and its failure to protect them.
Morrison's emotional speech given in Parliament before hundreds of survivors followed the conclusion of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the nations' highest level of inquiry.
"Today as a nation we confront our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice," he said, adding: "We say sorry."
Abuse survivors gathered in Parliament's Great Hall cried, yelled and applauded as Morrison read the apology. "I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you," he said.
The four-year inquest that delivered its final report in December revealed shocking evidence from more than 17,000 survivors and heard allegations against government, church and private institutions, as well as prominent individuals. It also heard evidence from leaders such as Vatican Cardinal George Pell, who is charged with committing historical sex abuses himself and was accused of failing to protect children. The prime minister said in his speech yesterday that it was time for Australia to confront key questions.
The government will commit to reporting every year for the next five years on the progress of the royal commission's recommendations. It has already accepted 104 of the commission's 122 recommendations, including a redress payments program, with the other 18 recommendations still under examination. The government has also established a new office of child safety, to report to the prime minister. Opposition leader Bill Shorten joined the apology, saying Australia had failed tens of thousands of children, across generations.