Bill's Speeches

NATIONAL APOLOGY TO VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS OF INSTITUTIONAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE - GREAT HALL, CANBERRA - MONDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2018

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I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.
 
And I acknowledge the members of the Stolen Generations, children who were taken from country and culture and connection, many of whom then suffered abuse on top of that trauma.
 
I acknowledge the Prime Minister and his sincere words, I thank him for what he is doing today.
 
I would like to acknowledge amongst many people, someone who makes me very proud, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It's nothing less than you deserve, Julia.

I'd also like to acknowledge the advisory committee, they are formidable. You are excellent and you will keep us on our path, I understand that, thank you very much.

And although she didn't want me to mention her, because she is characteristically modest, I want to acknowledge Jenny Macklin who desperately wanted to be here today.
 
And most importantly, I want to acknowledge all of you.
 
I mean, coming to the Great Hall, coming to Parliament, is the triumph of hope over experience.
 
What I want to say to you all who've come here, is you actually do us who work here the compliment, because you've been let down - children who get let down by the institutions in their life.
 
And I just want to say, I can see that coming forward to the Royal Commission would be a very painful decision, to have to tell a story again, when you weren't believed for years, when you were betrayed by people in authority, time and time again.
 
To try and come forward and to relive the pain for one reason above all else - and this is why I welcome you here - because every person in this room has told their story, or been part of this process, for the simple unselfish motivation: what happened to you, you don't want to happen to kids in the future, thank you very much.
 
We had our speeches in Parliament, there's no need to repeat all of that, but let me answer one question which many of you will be thinking: Words are good, but will you do it? What is the action?
 
And I want to say in acknowledging that, that today is not an easy day for many. 
 
Because this Royal Commission looked at victims of sexual abuse and the responses of institutions, but I want to acknowledge today those who were in institutions, who whilst they may not have been sexually abused, suffered all sorts of grief and violence and abuse in other ways.
 
And beyond the institutions, I want to acknowledge that this is a difficult day because for many people who suffered abuse as a child and sexual abuse, it didn't happen in an institution but abuse is abuse is abuse, nonetheless. 
 
And to all of those who have advocated, to all of those who have been on this very difficult journey. I understand that there are many who are not even here, and I don't even mean in this building or in this place, but who have just passed on, and for them this all comes too late and I acknowledge that, and I'm so dreadfully sorry about that fact. 
 
So there's two things I just want to say in closing.
 
I want to repeat one thing which we said in the House but it cannot be repeated enough: to all of you who have suffered, we understand at long last, and many before, but at long last it's been said aloud and in the most important law-making part of the Australian democracy, it was never your fault, it is not your fault and I terribly apologise for the fact that you weren't believed.
 
I am so, so sorry. 
 
And finally, we use a lot of words in this place. 
 
And you could be forgiven for thinking that words are cheap and I understand that today is not judged by today, as important as today is. 
 
It is now up to those in power, no longer just the survivors and the victims and their advocates.
 
It is now the moral duty of this Parliament and future parliaments, not to second-guess the Royal Commission but just to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
 
Thank you very much.


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