“We have failed for decades”

Apology for abuse © Matt Rourke

About 60.000 children are said to have been victims of institutional abuse in Australia. Among the institutions is also the Catholic Church. The government has now ied a representative apology for this. Victims demand more.

Australia's government leader Scott Morrison on Monday ied an official apology to victims of child sexual abuse in institutions such as the Catholic Church. The country must acknowledge and apologize for the "lost cries of our children," he said.

"Today Australia faces a trauma, an abomination that has been overlooked for too long despite its obviousness," Morrison told Parliament, where hundreds of victims and their families had also gathered. Australia had long "not listened, not believed and not offered justice". To the victims, parents, families and also whistleblowers who were not heard, he publicly ied an apology: "Sorry."

"A momentous moment"

The president of the Australian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, spoke of a "significant moment in our ongoing efforts to make Australia a safe place for all children and young people". Sister Monica Cavanagh, speaking on behalf of Catholic religious orders, said the government's apology was "an important affirmation of the courage of those affected by abuse to seek truth, justice and healing."

The official apology was a policy response to a recommendation made in the final report of the state abuse commission in late 2015. Abuse victims and Labor politician Julia Gillard were among the many guests at the historic parliamentary session. As prime minister, she had appointed the commission in 2013 to investigate the handling of abuse cases in church and secular institutions.

How victims respond?

Among abuse victims, government's "sorry" met with divided response. Victims from the Catholic diocese of Ballarat boycotted the parliamentary session. The apology is "hollow" as long as there is no uniform legislation across the country requiring everyone to report child sexual abuse to the police, representatives of abuse victims told Australian media. Ballarat is one of the central sites in the abuse scandal in Australia.

Abuse victim Peter Gogarty expressed skepticism about value of apology. There have been many "sorrys" in recent years without any real action following, he told the ABC network. Gogarty was abused as a boy in the diocese of Newcastle in the 1970s. His case had led to the conviction this year of Archbishop Philip Wilson for covering up abuse cases.

Abuse study in Australia

A commission had spent five years investigating abuse as well as its cover-up, taking testimony from more than 15.000 victims documented. It emerged that around 60.000 child victims of sexual abuse in Australian institutions. They are entitled to compensation because of it.

The Catholic Church is also one of the institutions involved.

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