Announced in 2012, the five-year Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse received 41,770 calls, 25,774 letters, conducted 57 public hearings and 8,013 private sessions, and made 2,559 referrals to authorities – highlighting the prevalence of child sexual abuse, both historical and recent, in Australian institutions.
Save the Children Child Protection Advocate Karen Flanagan AM, who provided evidence to the commission, welcomed the national apology as a symbolic gesture to validate the silent voices of thousands of abused children.
"This National Apology occurs almost six years after the announcement of a Royal Commission by the Federal Government. It was a moment in our country’s history which offered survivors of complex childhood trauma the opportunity to be heard – and to be believed,"
Ms Flanagan said.
"The significance of this commission and apology should not be underestimated. Nor should it be forgotten. As we work on improving policies and practices in our institutions – we must never forget the importance of listening to, respecting and believing children.
“While the apology cannot change the past, it does signal a line in the sand to impunity for perpetrators who use their privileged positions of power to exploit and abuse the most innocent and vulnerable.
“The apology certainly gives hope for the future and is a message to all organisations and institutions that the abuse and exploitation of children will no longer be tolerated.
“The courage of survivors' voices has helped create a culture of accountability and build trust in children's voices to help all of us take responsibility for keeping children safe and well.”
In 2017 Save the Children Australia merged with Child Wise
– one of Australia’s leading not-for-profit child abuse prevention organisations. This merger has broadened and strengthened the charity's child protection programs and capacity to educate individuals and organisations on the steps to take to keep children and young people safe from abuse and harm.
Child Wise is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children through working with organisations where children spend time to help them meet the child safety standards recommended by the Royal Commission.
CEO Jane French said accreditation by Child Wise is a visible symbol that an organisation has a deep commitment, and has done the necessary work, to ensure that children’s voices are heard, and that they are safe when they step foot into any institution.
“While we cannot undo the damage caused by past instances of sexual abuse, we can certainly equip individuals and organisations to better protect children and remind us all of our primary responsibility to protect,"
Ms French said.
“Principles for protecting children are internationally enshrined in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of a Child, and domestically guided by State and Territory legislation and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.
"However, as shown through this inquiry, more must be done to end the sexual abuse of children."
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