National Redress Scheme

There’s a new movie out in January called Spotlight.

It is based on a true story. A story of six brave and relentless journalists at the Boston Globe who through their work uncovered and exposed some of the most appalling crimes committed and kept secret for up to 75 years.

As a result of their work five priests were charged and went to prison. More than 500 victims filed abuse claims and more than 60 churches in Massachusetts were shut.

Here in Australia there is a similar story – of another brave and relentless journalist, this time at the Newcastle Herald. The journalist’s name is Joanne McCarthy and she is a Walkley Award winner. She won the Gold Walkley in 2013 for the work she did on the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley region.

I was in the audience the night she won and I remember her saying she never wanted to be a journalist. She wanted to be a librarian.

I remember she thanked the victims and their families for trusting her to tell their stories and most poignantly she said:

It just shows you don’t need an army, you just need people believing that something had to be done.

Joanne is one of those people.

As a result of her work today we have a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

And that Royal Commission over the last two years has been very busy.

It has heard the stories of 3,704 people affected by child sexual abuse. 1,563 people are still waiting for a private session with the Royal Commission. The Commission has also received 4,760 written accounts of abuse at the hands of churches, homes, orphanages and schools.

This is just one. The story of stan.

Stan was placed in several orphanages before arriving at the Christian Brothers’ orphanage in Victoria. Brother Benton came to the orphanage in 1953, and not long after his arrival he started raping 12 year old Stan three times a week for more than two years.

It took Stan 59 years to get to the stage of being able to talk about what had happened to him. He says that he didn’t even talk to the other boys at the time about what had happened, but was now aware that Brother Benton was abusing others. Two of those boys later committed suicide.

There are too many stories like this. There are thousands and thousands of stories like this. They are a savage indictment on the institutions that allowed it to happen and the governments who oversaw it.

In September the Royal Commission issued an important report.

It recommends the establishment of a National Redress Scheme.

I am as you might know the Patron of CLAN, Care Leavers Australia Network, an organisation run by the amazing Leonie Sheedy that advocates for survivors of abuse in institutions and has been campaigning for this scheme for over a decade.

I have said before in this Chamber that I think we should do this.

I am proud to say two weeks ago Bill Shorten, announced that a Shorten Labor Government will do this – committing $33 million to implement a National Redress Scheme.

The Commission has recommended the cost of redress be met by the perpetrators of the abuse, with Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments acting as a funder of last resort.

The Catholic Church has already set aside $1 billion for redress.

And the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments have also said that they will back the establishment of this scheme.

A Labor Government will do this – but we shouldn’t have to wait until the next election to make this happen.

The current Prime Minister knows how important this is.

He was part of the National Apology to the Forgotten Australians – the half a million Australians who grew up in orphanages, children’s homes and other institutions who were subject to terrible cruelty and abuse. That apology was six years ago next Monday.

He said on that day in the Great Hall packed with hundreds of Australians – many of whom suffered horrendous abuse and neglect:

You were abandoned and betrayed by governments, churches and charities.

We are sorry because none of us can give back what was taken. We are sorry because not one of us here today has the power to undo the damage done. We are sorry because we cannot restore to you the one thing to which all children should be entitled as a basic right – a safe and beloved childhood. We are sorry because, across the generations, the system failed you; the nation failed you, by looking the other way.

Malcolm Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia. Although he can’t give back what was taken or undo the damage that was done to these people, he now has an opportunity to make this right and to do the right thing.

I call upon the Prime Minister of Australia tonight to set things right and implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission and establish now a National Redress Scheme.