PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has delivered a national apology to the thousands of victims of child sexual abuse.
In a lengthy address to parliament Mr Morrison acknowledged and apologised for the harm victims of child sexual abuse have been caused.
At some points during the emotional address it seemed as if the prime minister had to regain his composure, with many other politicians seen wiping away tears.
“Mr Speaker, today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice,” Mr Morrison said.
“And, again, today, we say sorry. To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.
“To the whistleblowers, who we did not listen to, sorry. To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands, children, who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry.
“To generations past and present, sorry.”
“I simply say I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you,” Mr Morrison said.
For the most part, Mr Morrison’s speech seemed to be well received but there was a moment when he was addressing a room full of abuse survivors that some were not happy about.
When he took to the podium to address the room he was met with a number of calls from hecklers to “acknowledge children of the military”.
In response, Mr Morrison said he “understands the anger” and invited everyone in the room to stand and join hands in a show of solidarity.
Too many the direction may seem like a touching gesture, but some pointed out that some sexual assault victims may not be very comfortable with touching strangers.
“Did @ScottMorrisonMP really just ask a room full of sexual abuse survivors to HOLD HANDS with strangers,” one Twitter user asked.
Another said: “Scott Morrison shows he knows absolutely nothing about the traumatic impact of child abuse by directing attendees in the Great Hall to hold hands.”
For the most part, Mr Morrison’s speech was met with approval from many attendees but it was former Prime Minister Julia Gillard that many were waiting to see.
The Great Hall erupted with applause from survivors of sexual abuse as the former PM entered, with people joining together to chant her name.
Ms Gillard has been praised for establishing the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in November 2012.
The reaction to Ms Gillard was to powerful that she was even asked up on stage to give an impromptu speech.
Mr Morrison’s apology in parliament was followed by an address from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten also apologised for the horror abuse that thousands of Australias have suffered, acknowledging that the fight against this injustice isn’t over.
“And we are sorry that the abuse and the assault and the rape of children is still going on and being covered up,” he said.
“This very day, in this very country, we are sorry that we still cannot protect all our children.
“And we are sorry all of us in this Parliament that we’ve not yet done enough to guarantee that this cannot happen again.”
With the apology will come an announcement of a museum and research centre to remember the bravery of victims.
Not everyone was impressed leading up to the apology, with a small addition to the seating set up causing fury among some attendees.
As hundreds of victims converged on Canberra this morning a photo of the seating area caused some controversy among victims.
A bottle of water and packet of tissues was photographed under a seat reserved for MP Tony Smith.
It appears that these items have been placed under multiple chairs and one victim told news.com.au that the addition has “drawn ire” from many of those attending.
“Tissues are for the tears of victims, survivors and their families. It annoys many, not just me,” he said.
“It is annoying to many because the politicians are just pandering to the moment.”
After suffering years of sexual abuse as a child, Sydney man Ray Leary, 57, said institutions had covered up horrific abuses of power and communities had shut their ears to the stories of survivors.
He said the apology was long overdue.
“This apology is not only to the victims of child sexual abuse, but their families, their children, the effect it has had on their lives,” Mr Leary told AAP.
“It means that the government, on behalf of the people of Australia, believe us and are apologising for the sins of their fathers.
“For much of my life I was laughed at or ridiculed when I told the stories of the abuse I received growing up as a state ward.”
A child victim of the infamous Robert “Dolly” Dunn paedophile ring, Mr Leary had tried to live a normal life by holding down a job and living with his wife and two children, but everything unravelled when he was forced to confront his past.
After being called to give evidence at the Wood Royal Commission, he lost everything trying to get justice.
His marriage ended and he stopped working.
“I attempted to commit suicide,” he said.
While trying to find a way forward, Mr Leary created a group for male victims of child sexual abuse to share their experiences in a safe space.
“Helping others put me on a path towards healing,” he said. “It’s very hard for a wife to understand this, it’s very hard for a mother and father to understand this, and it’s very hard for any family to understand.
“I have been receiving closure and I hope this final apology will provide complete closure and I can look forward to the next part of my life.”
Another victim, who has lived with the pain of her abuse for nine decades, Katie, 96, from Sydney hopes the apology will bring her a sense of peace.
She is now one of Australia’s oldest survivors of child sexual abuse, and she said she cannot forget the humiliation and pain she suffered during her years at the institution in Gore Hill on Sydney’s north shore. She was only six years old when she arrived at the orphanage.
“It’s a big thing for people to listen and take note of what we went through,” she toldABC
Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said no one could underestimate what the apology would mean to victims.
“The tone of the day will be quite different to what a normal parliamentary day will be — and it needs to be,” Mr Burke told ABC Radio on Monday.
“People have been waiting so long to hear those words: ‘we believe you’.”
The speech will also include a commitment that the government reports every year for the next five years on the progress of the royal commission’s recommendations.
After the five years are up, a report will be handed in 10 years’ time. The apology follows the release of last year’s report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The inquiry received more than 40,000 phone calls, 25,000 letters and emails, and held about 8000 private sessions, resulting in 2575 referrals to authorities, including police.
The government has accepted 104 of the 122 recommendations handed down by the royal commission, with the other 18 being closely examined in consultation with states and territories.