Former Australian Treasurer and present Prime Minister Scott Morrison (File Photo: IANS)
Sydney, Oct 22 (IANS) Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten made a "national apology" in the parliament to thousands of victims affected by acts of paedophilia and other abuse when they were under care of national institutions.
Later, the prime minister also apologised to the hundreds of child sex abuse victims that had gathered in Parliament House for the occasion.
It is the first time an Australian Government acknowledged the failures of government's faith-based institutions and other organisations to keep children and young people safe.
Morrison told the victims: "We believe you, your country believes you."
The prime minister paid tribute to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard for setting up the Royal Commission inquiry saying it was a day to confront the failure to listen to believe and provide justice.
The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the gathering "our nation let you down. Today we offer our nation's apology with humility, with honesty, with hope of healing now and with a fire in our belly to ensure that our children will grow up safe in future."
Morrison asked those gathered in the Great Hall to join hands as he relayed the apology to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. "Today we say we are sorry. Sorry you are not protected. Sorry you are not listened to. We are sorry for refusing to trust the words of children, for not believing you."
He said the nation was sorry that the perpetrators of abuse were relocated and shielded, rather than held to account, that records were withheld and destroyed and accountability avoided.
The Royal Commission that investigated the institutions' response to sexual abuse of minors presented its final report in December last year with more than 400 recommendations that included compensation for the victims.
(Rekha Bhattacharjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)