February 8, 2018 | Adam Gartrell | Sydney Morning Herald
State and territory leaders are under mounting pressure to sign up to the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sex abuse, with Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten uniting to call for urgent action.
Survivor advocates say premiers and chief ministers should not be allowed to leave Friday's Council of Australian Government's meeting in Canberra until they have committed to join the compensation scheme recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"Stop playing with our lives, stop treating us like fools and do the right thing," said Leonie Sheedy from the Care Leavers Australasia Network. "We need the states to find their moral compass. They need to opt-in and contribute now."
"They shouldn't be allowed to leave COAG until they all have a united face with the Prime Minister on this."
Mr Turnbull on Thursday announced he would deliver a national apology to victims on behalf of all Australians by the end of the year. The government will appoint a "survivor-focused reference group" to help shape the apology.
"As a nation we must mark this occasion in a form that reflects the wishes of survivors and affords them the dignity to which they were entitled as children but which was denied to them by the very people tasked with their care," he said.
But Mr Turnbull also took aim at the states and territories over the redress scheme that is due to be rolled out by July 1. A central recommendation of the royal commission - which handed its report to the government in December - the redress scheme will offer up to $150,000 to survivors and enable personal apologies from offending institutions.
"The scheme will fulfil its promise of justice only if we have maximum participation across all jurisdictions," Mr Turnbull said. "Survivors deserve much better and I urge the premiers in all the jurisdictions to prioritise this work and join the redress scheme without further delay."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also made a powerful plea for action.
"No dollar figure can make shattered lives whole or bring people back. But that is no reason for delay, no reason for avoiding clear-cut obligations," he said. "As of today, not a single dollar has come from any of the states or the institutions whose names and deeds fill the pages of this report. I say to the institutions and indeed,the states: the time for lawyers is over, the time for justice is here."
Ms Sheedy said more than 30 abuse survivors had died since the royal commission, losing their chance at redress.
She also called for every offending religious and charity organisation to be present at the apology: "They should be on their knees, begging for our forgiveness."
Abuse survivor Brendan Hunt said apology was not important to him personally but it would be to other people.
"And the more we talk about it, the more it's out in the open, the less chance these predators have of offending again," he said.
The royal commission's report made 409 recommendations after hearing more than 8000 personal stories of abuse. More than 4000 individual institutions were reported as places where abuse has occurred.
Mr Turnbull's apology will come 10 years after former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd's national apology to the stolen generations.
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