Final report of child sex abuse commission calls for national strategy

The abuse royal commission has recommended the Australian government set up a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse.

In its final report, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has called for a systematic overhaul of the culture, structure and governance practices which allowed paedophiles to flourish.

"There is no simple explanation for why child sexual abuse has occurred in a multitude of institutions," the final report says.

"However, we have identified a number of ways in which institutions may, inadvertently or otherwise, enable or create opportunities for abuse."

After a five-year inquiry which uncovered the horrific extent of institutional child sexual abuse, the inquiry found many institutions had failed children over many decades while the child protection, criminal and civil justice systems let them down.

Two versions of the final report were handed to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on Friday morning, one of which has been redacted for publication, and an unredacted version royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan recommended was published once all criminal proceedings into alleged perpetrators have been completed.

It's been described as a national tragedy, with tens of thousands of victims in more 4000 individual institutions.

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More than 15,000 survivors or their relatives have contacted the commission.

The true number of victims will likely never be known, with the commission estimating as many as 60 per cent will never disclose their abuse.

After 8000 private sessions, 1200 witnesses and 444 days of public hearings, the inquiry has made more than 2500 referrals to authorities including police.

Prior to the handing down of Friday's report, the royal commission had already called for significant reforms in areas such as the criminal and civil systems as well as measures to make institutions safer for children.

It found some leaders, believed their primary responsibility was to protect the institution's reputation and perpetrators ahead of the welfare of children.

The commission has also made recommendations on how a national redress scheme for abuse survivors should work, with commission modelling estimated 60,000 survivors would be eligible to make a compensation claim under a national redress scheme.

Justice McClellan has warned the sexual abuse of children is not just a problem from the past, with children continuing to be abused in institutions today.

"The sexual abuse of any child is intolerable in a civilised society," he said at the final sitting of the hearing on Thursday.

"It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are being abused.

"We must each resolve that we should do what we can to protect them."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also responded to the report’s release.

“I want to thank the Royal Commissioners for their work,” he said

“It’s been very tough, often harrowing work, but above all, I want to thank and honour the courage of the survivors and their families who’ve told, often for the first time, the dreadful stories of abuse that they received from people who actually owed them love and protection.”

RESPONSE FROM RELIGIOUS LEADERS

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, said the release of the final report was the culmination of almost five years of intense examination of the way in which many different institutions, including the Catholic Church, have historically failed children.

“This is a shameful past, in which a prevailing culture of secrecy and self-protection led to unnecessary suffering for many victims and their families,” Archbishop Hart said.

“Once again, I reiterate my unconditional apology for this suffering and a commitment to ensuring justice for those affected.”

Sister Ruth Durick OSU, president of Catholic Religious Australia, said religious orders across Australia are committed to continuing the work of recent years to ensure a future in which the safety and protection of children and vulnerable adults is paramount.

“We acknowledge with gratitude the courage of all those survivors who have come forward to the Royal Commission,” Sr Ruth said.

“We will be taking very seriously the Royal Commission's report and have commissioned an initial assessment of its findings by the Truth, Justice and Healing Council. We expect the TJHC assessment to be completed early in 2018.”

Both leaders said the Church will continue to push for the introduction of a national redress scheme for the survivors of child sexual abuse in which the Church will participate.

“The success of this scheme lies with the cooperation of the state governments. Without their involvement, national coverage will be impossible,” a statement said.

“It is now time for state governments to act.”

Archbishop Hart's media conference will be live streamed at 2pm below.

If you are troubled by this report or experiencing a personal crisis, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636 or visit lifeline.org.au or beyondblue.org.au

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