SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
THE HON. JENNY MACKLIN MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR JAGAJAGA
THE HON. MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY OFFICES, MELBOURNE
FRIDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you. I’m very pleased to be here today with my colleague, Mark Dreyfus, who was so important at the start of the Royal Commission, making sure that the legislation that established the Royal Commission was able to create an environment where survivors could be heard and their stories told, so thank you Mark, very much, for all of that work.
As you are all aware, the Royal Commission report is about to be handed to the Governor-General. I want to first of all, take the opportunity to thank all of the Commissioners, Justice Peter McClellan and all of the other Commissioners who have done such an extraordinary job over the last five years. All of them have dedicated an enormous amount of themselves to making sure that the survivors of child sexual abuse have been heard.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of the survivors of child sexual abuse and their families for coming forward, telling their stories and being prepared to go through what is an enormously painful process of describing the terrible abuse that they’ve suffered.
To all of the advocates that really made this happen. The advocates like the Care Leavers Australasia Network, the Alliance of Forgotten Australians, many individual advocates who just campaigned for years and years and years to make sure that this Royal Commission came to pass. To all of you for your courage and conviction, to make sure that our country faced up to the horrific abuse that had taken abuse in our institutions over a very long period of time, and sadly, as the Royal Commission has indicated, continues to this day. We say to each and every one of you, thank you for your courage. We understand that it is now our responsibility as parliamentarians to take the Royal Commission’s recommendations and to make sure that they’re implemented. Implemented by parliaments, but also implemented in institutions that need to dramatically change their practises so that child abuse, this horrific abuse, doesn’t happen to children in the future.
I think Mark would like to say a few words.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks Jenny. This Royal Commission has changed Australia for the better. It’s a Royal Commission which sought to shine a light on the evil crime of child sexual abuse. It’s done that. It’s a Royal Commission which has given an opportunity to thousands and thousands of Australians who have suffered sexual abuse as children to tell their stories and to be believed. I’d add my thanks to those of Jenny, to the Royal Commissioners, Justice Peter McClellan, the other Royal Commissioners, to the thousands of survivors who participated in this Royal Commission, to the advocates who have toiled for decades to get these stories told, who toiled for decades to bring this Royal Commission about, because I think that without them this would not have happened. I want to say that we must see this Royal Commission as the first stage.
It’s the first stage because we now need to get on as a nation and act on the recommendations, several hundred recommendations as we understand it, that are contained in the final report of the Royal Commission that is about to be handed to the Governor General.
JOURNALIST: How confident are you that the churches will go ahead and change what they’ve been doing so that this will never happen again?
DREYFUS: I think that we need to look to all of the institutions whose conduct has been exposed in this Royal Commission to take action, because that is the focus of this Royal Commission. It is a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in institutions; it’s been a very well conducted Royal Commission which has heard on not just a single occasion from many of these institutions but on several occasions. The recommendations will go to what these institutions need to do. The recommendations will comment on what these institutions have already done, since this Royal Commission started five years ago and we will be looking, as Jenny said, as Parliamentarians, to make sure that the recommendations of this Royal Commission are implemented.
MACKLIN: I just want to add something to that, because it is true that there are many churches and other religious organisations that need to dramatically improve their governance and their practises, but it’s also the case that there are many, many thousands of children that were abused in state run institutions, and many state organisations, the police, child protection authorities, also need to make sure that their practises are changed to make sure that the cover up of abuse is not allowed to happen again. So all of the States and the Territories, along with the Commonwealth need to urgently agree to join the National Redress Scheme. Not a Commonwealth Scheme that’s only got the Federal Government involved. A National Redress Scheme with every State, every Territory, all of the institutions that were responsible for abuse, joining that Redress Scheme. All those institutions that were responsible for abuse must be held to account and just compensation paid.
JOURNALIST: Are you satisfied this Parliamentary Committee which will be chaired by Derryn Hinch, that has been confirmed?
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister didn’t know about that this morning.
MACKLIN: Well I won’t comment about the Prime Minister, but it was actually agreed back in June and announced at that time, and we are very pleased that Members of the House and the Senate are part of that joint parliamentary committee that Senator Derryn Hinch will chair. I think it’s very important that we have such a parliamentary committee that is going to oversight the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, starting with the Redress Scheme. So we’re very pleased to be part of it. There are other Members of Parliament in addition to Labor members on the committee, and we look forward to them doing an outstandingly important job.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor propose any amendments to the Scheme to make sure it gets the [inaudible] by the States, particularly to make sure it gets the [inaudible].
MACKLIN: We have been saying loud and clear that the Redress Scheme is not adequate. There are a number of concerns that we have, first and foremost that no State has actually agreed to come in, neither has any of the major Institutions responsible for abuse agreed to come in. So we need them to come in. The Commonwealth really has a responsibility to negotiate for that to happen and to do that as a matter of urgency. We have already established a Senate Inquiry into the legislation that has put out calls for submissions. I’ve received a letter from the Alliance of Forgotten Australians demonstrating their concerns about the legislation that the Commonwealth has put in to the Parliament, so we will be part of that Senate Inquiry and we will do everything in our power to make sure that we have a Redress Scheme that actually meets the recommendations of the Royal Commission. That really is what we think the test should be.
MACKLIN: Well I think what it needs is a lot more effort out in, frankly, to get the States and the Institutions on board. We need them to join the Redress Scheme, and we need them to do that as a matter of urgency.
DREYFUS: If I could just add to that that the Commonwealth had more than two years since the Royal Commission reported in September of 2015, the Royal Commission was very deliberate on this. In producing this report recommending the implementation of a National Redress Scheme more than two years ahead of its final report, which is what we’re getting today. It’s been very disappointing to us that the Commonwealth has taken so long to take even the first steps to get this Scheme up and running. I think we can take that as an example of what not to do, we are very much looking for the Commonwealth to act a great deal more quickly on the recommendations of this final report that we are getting today, than the Commonwealth has chosen to act in relation to address.
MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone.