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STANDING COMMITTEE ON COMMUNITY AFFAIRS
31/03/2009
Implementation of the recommendations of the Lost Innocents and Forgotten Australians reports

CHAIR —We would like to welcome our friend Andrew Murray to this hearing. I will not go through the whole processes about protection of witnesses et cetera; you are way too familiar with this system. We are very glad that you have been able to come and talk with us today, and it is important to put on record yet again the role that you played in ensuring that these issues were subject to review at the national level and the series of reports that came out of it. Consistently, we have all seen that across the board in this country. The fact that you put this on the record and worked so hard for it is the only reason that the Senate did get involved and, now that we are involved, we take our role extremely seriously because we have all been touched by the issues we have heard. If you would like to, make an opening statement and then we will get into a discussion, because we are really interested to see, from the work that you have put in, how it has progressed and where you believe we should go now, which is the whole focus of this inquiry.

Mr Murray —Thank you, Madam Chair. Because I did not put in a submission, I am going to make an opening statement of about 10 minutes, if you would not mind. I will be repeating some things which you know but I think it is important for the probity of the inquiry that those are laid down, so I will proceed on that basis.

As you all know, I have some personal experience of being in care, having been placed in a children’s home at the age of two in England and then being sent as a child migrant, at the age of four, to an institution in Southern Rhodesia. However, I am here because of my professional not personal experience, and I ask the committee to refer to and use, if you find it helpful, my work on these issues, much of which is on the Senate Hansard record.

Australian national inquiries inform my views, supplemented by a number of British, Irish and Canadian inquiries, inquiries by various Australian states, and hundreds of submissions that include primary sources, and many books and articles. It is nearly eight years since the tabling in the Senate of the Lost innocents report and nearly five years since the tabling of the Forgotten Australians report. I thank the committee for refusing to let these reports gather dust and for this inquiry into progress with the responses to its recommendations in its three reports on those who have been or are in care.

I take this opportunity to pay my respects to the chair, the secretariat and the committee, as I have great regard for their work. I want to thank the various federal, state and territory governments for those recommendations they have met or tried to meet. My gratitude should not be lost in the criticisms I must make as I focus on those recommendations not dealt with. The starting point for all else is recommendations 30 and 31 of the Lost innocents report, and recommendations 1 and 2 of the Forgotten Australians report. These deal with the issue of an apology.

I had long called for a national apology to the stolen generation. It was a great day in Australia’s national life when it was finally delivered. Prime Minister Rudd gave not just an apology to the stolen generation but a promise of much more remedial action to come. The committee needs to ask the federal government the question being asked by white children who were harmed in care: where is their apology? Like the Indigenous children, many non-Indigenous children were taken from their country and stolen from their families. Like the Indigenous children, they too were sexually assaulted. They too were physically assaulted. Read all the reports and books.

The sufferings of children in care are not divisible by race. They endured the same harms. If the execution of the policy had resulted in a high standard of care, then that would have been a mitigating factor in the children’s removal, but the execution of the policy was often bad and churches, agencies, state and federal governments all failed in their duty of care. As adults, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians have all endured lives tarnished by welfare dependency, substance abuse, mental and other health disorders, relationship and parenting problems, and endless searches for identity, resulting from their experiences in care. To this very day, many continue to suffer from the loss of identity and family, from feelings of abandonment, from a fear of authority and from a lack of trust and security.

So why does one section of the population get an apology but not the other? Why is there racial discrimination? Why does one group matter less than the other? That is the question to be asked loudly. I would hate the answer to be ‘politics’. One partial answer may be the better funded, better organised and louder voice of Indigenous care leavers. One other possible answer is widespread ignorance. Historically, there has been more academic and serious attention to the history of institutionalised Indigenous Australians than to others who were institutionalised but, even so, the teaching and dissemination of this whole social history has been limited.

The 1997 Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bringing them home report on the Indigenous stolen generations, the Senate Community Affairs Committee 2001 report into child migration, Lost innocents: righting the record, the 2004 Forgotten Australians report and the 2005 Protecting vulnerable children report, have all helped generate more interest, and autobiographic, academic, fictional and official narratives are building. Nevertheless, the popular knowledge and understanding is still lower. The Forgotten Australians report conservatively estimates that, taken together, there are over half a million people in Australia who experienced life in orphanages, children’s homes or other forms of out-of-home care last century. They are the 7,000 to 10,000 child migrants from Britain, Ireland and Malta; the 30,000 to 50,000 Aboriginal stolen generation children, and the 450,000-plus Australian-born non-Indigenous children raised in orphanages and other forms of out-of-home care. The number in care is still high at around 28,000 children currently. I am not sure of the exact figures, but if you said that 20 million people had been alive in 20th century Australia then, by extension, roughly one in 40 would have been in care.

A second aspect—ignorance—is a failure to understand the consequences of harm and why ongoing remediation is necessary. If you hurt a child, a harmed adult will often result. Long-term harm does not just arise from horrors such as the rape of a child. The common thread of those who have ever been institutionalised or in care is that their attachment to their origins, their family, their home and their past was cut, and this grieves them.

Aggregate those adults who were harmed in care and the social and economic cost is huge. Crime, homelessness, welfare dependency, mental and other health problems, relationship and parenting difficulties and substance abuse are far too common. Tragically, many have suicided. There is still ignorance in the parliament because many have still not read your reports. Experience has taught me that most in the media are ignorant of the issues. Denial is a problem. Experience has taught me many people, including parliamentarians, find these issues too confronting because they challenge their own perceptions, beliefs or world view. There are parliamentarians with memories of many fine religious educators who find it difficult to hear there were many who were not. I remind them of the Lost innocents report, which says that the child migrant WA stories:

... provide an account of systemic criminal sexual assault and predatory behaviour by a large number of the Brothers over a considerable period of time. Evidence was given of boys being abused in many ways for the sexual gratification of the Brothers, of boys being terrified in bed at night as Brothers stalked the dormitories to come and take children to their rooms, of boys as ‘pets’ of the Brothers being repeatedly sodomised, and of boys being pressured into bestial acts.

To address many problems associated with care leavers searching their pasts through records held by both government and non-government agencies, numerous recommendations are made in the Lost innocents and Forgotten Australians reports: a total of 19 in all. Although freedom of information legislation and a greater willingness of some organisations to make records available have improved access, problems still include the destruction and fragmentation of records, poor record-keeping and privacy restrictions.

Privacy restrictions can mean that people finally access their records, only to discover that substantial information has been withheld, especially when attempting to access records of other family members. In some cases these records are bound to contain vital information in the quest to trace family members or the person’s history. Under privacy legislation, family information is considered information about a third party and is treated differently to the personal information of the searcher. Overall, third party privacy restrictions pose a frustrating barrier to care leavers. The searcher can be denied the very information required to identify family members and to re-establish family links. Privacy provisions need to be changed so that all nine federal, state and territory Australian governments can fulfil their obligations to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory. Article 8 of the treaty states:

1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.

2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.

I have noted the government intention to improve FOI. My hope is that the committee will deal with this matter in its report and write to the minister, Senator the Hon. John Faulkner. I encourage you to campaign for the preservation of those records that survive, for better management and central registries and to campaign for and allow greater and more sympathetic access, including ending the misuse of privacy rules to prevent proper-purpose access.

The Queensland government has issued two draft bills for simultaneous public consultation—the Right to Information Bill 2009 and the Information Privacy Bill 2009—for the very good reason that privacy is the flip side to public disclosure and one should not be considered in isolation of the principles and practices of the other.

Recommendation 6 of Forgotten Australians was that the government establish and manage a national reparations fund for victims of institutional abuse. The question of finding and exposing records matters in exposing the system as a whole. Reparations for mass harm inflicted on children who remain damaged adults remains a live issue, and records and testimony are vital in these matters.

There is no question that the wide-scale physical and sexual assault of children and varied forms of abuse demand restitution and justice. The federal government’s refusal so far to consider a national reparations fund is mocked by the other governments that can and have introduced affordable and helpful reparations schemes, like those of Canada, Ireland, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia. The failure to exercise a duty of care demands restitution, it demands reparation and it demands compensation. Redress was an important and unanimous recommendation of the Forgotten Australians report. Thank you, Madam Chair. I hope that was not too long.

CHAIR —Thank you very much.

Senator SIEWERT —I will go from the last comment back up to the apology. In fact, I think you were here when I asked the question earlier about the link between an apology and a redress scheme. Do you think an apology should happen without a national reparations scheme?

Mr Murray —I think linking the two has always been a false link. I have always thought the refusal to offer a national apology was, at its best, based on a false premise—and that is that it would open the national government to major compensation claims—and, at its worst, was simply an excuse not to do it. I do not think the two are linked at all. There are people in the care-leaving community of all colours who are desperate for an apology and are not concerned at all with getting compensation or reparation. There are others who are the other way around. I think those are two entirely separate and distinct issues.

In our personal lives and in our national lives the intangibles—the emotional expression of the relationship between governments and people in authority and the people—have to be respected. What an apology does is say, ‘We did wrong by you. We didn’t exercise a duty of care and we’re sorry for that.’ The rest is completely separate.

Senator SIEWERT —The opinion was put very strongly yesterday by several groups of care leavers that, if there were going to be a national apology, there had to be a redress scheme along with it. We are all human and there is always a variety of opinions. I am wondering, therefore, what we recommend. Which group do we go with? When the apology was given to the stolen generations, I think there was a lot more emotional response than people expected on that day. I am wondering if people are underestimating the power of an apology in itself.

Mr Murray —Yes. The last point you make is an important one, Senator Siewert. You were not in the Senate at the time, but your two colleagues and the secretariat will recall, when the Forgotten Australians report was tabled, there were the most extraordinary scenes I have seen in my time in the Senate. The outpouring of emotion—of jubilation, of relief, of human anguish—was extraordinary. You cannot underestimate its importance to people, far away, listening to it on the radio in a lonely caravan somewhere, which is the life of many of these people.

I think you pose a false premise—and it is probably deliberate just to provoke a response—but it is not an either/or situation. The WA government long ago apologised and separately years later did the redress scheme. You can do both. It is a question of timing, management, structure and design. I do not think you should be putting yourselves in a situation where you say either/or. The original report did not. But it did not say that one had to happen at the same time as the other or as a condition of the other.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Is that the ideal outcome, do you think—a simultaneous apology and announcement of a reparations scheme?

Mr Murray —It would have tremendous impact, yes. It would undoubtedly lend a particular dimension to it. But as an advocate for both, I would never seek to tie both, because what happens if you get a prime minister who is very committed to doing one but not the other? You then wipe off both. In the end, this is a prime ministerial decision. What the committee has to understand is that ultimately it is the Prime Minister who will decide whether there is a national apology and whether there is a national reparations fund, and your report will understand that.

Senator SIEWERT —Senator Humphries asked a question earlier about a national redress scheme. What would your approach be to one now in view of the fact that we have one in WA, one in Queensland and one in Tasmania? Where have I missed?

CHAIR —South Australia is planning one.

Senator SIEWERT —Yes. What would your approach be? Do we take, not the lowest common denominator, hopefully, but another denominator, or do we allow the different states—‘allow’ probably is not the right word—to have their different schemes and the Commonwealth picks another?

Mr Murray —Let me step back. I think you have got to respect the wisdom of your predecessors. The committee considered the evidence very carefully and discussed its recommendation at length and, in my view, came to the right conclusion. I think recommendation 6 covers the ground. Essentially, the committee said that a redress scheme has obviously got to be affordable, which means a cap and means there are boundaries attached to it—which is a feature of all the redress schemes—and it also said that no one party has total liability. There are individuals who are responsible, who acted outside of the law. At no time, at the times those events occurred, was the sexual or physical assault of children lawful. It was never lawful. So there is individual responsibility. Responsibility has to be apportioned to churches and agencies who failed in their duty of care and governments who failed to supervise them in their duty of care. That is an essential element of the original consideration.

If there are redress schemes already under way, you can respond by saying, ‘That is that state’s contribution. They have come to the party, so the others must come to the party.’ Really, the design of any scheme has to respect those who have made a very real effort to apply measures of restitution, and sometimes those are not easily valued. Mediation, for instance, or reconciliation is a tremendously important mechanism for bringing peace to people in their past relationships with providers and so on, but that is difficult to put a value on. I think the committee’s recommendation was very sound and I would urge the committee to stay close to it.

Senator SIEWERT —You commented on access to records and privacy and used Queensland as an example. You cited what Queensland are doing now with the FOI Act and the Privacy Act. Do you consider they are good models?

Mr Murray —I have read the summary documents. I actually have the full documents but I have read the summaries. As you know, Dr Solomon is a particularly able and experienced person in that field and I think nearly all of his recommendations were accepted. Of course they have to be translated into legislation, so we need to wait for that. But what attracted my attention in the federal sphere, according to my memory of it—and the committee members may have the same memory—is that FOI has always been dealt with as a discrete subject from privacy. The inquiries and the Senate have always looked at the two separately.

I have come to the view that they end up in conflict in certain circumstances, and those conflicts need to be resolved where there are legitimate grounds for them being overturned or put aside which are not excessively bureaucratic. Remember, the people who go to that counter are often badly educated, often have difficulty reading and writing and understanding official instructions, find authority threatening and, because they are anxious, can be overaggressive in a situation where it is not in their best interest to be like that. I am not trying to say everybody is like that, but those are the circumstances. So you have to have an easy administrative mechanism.

The point I simply make to you is: if you agree with my view that one is the flip side of the other, then the minister or the committees inquiring, who might not have thought that through, need to be guided by your committee. But these are things you should be taking into account.

Senator SIEWERT —A point was made yesterday, when we were in Victoria, about New South Wales. They said that the privacy provisions in New South Wales had basically shut down any further access to records.

Mr Murray —That is right.

Senator SIEWERT —You are absolutely right. It is a really significant issue, and I was interested in whether you thought Queensland was on the right track with their approach.

Mr Murray —Certainly in putting the two out together. If I may say so, that is a very intelligent way to go.

CHAIR —I have made a small note of that, Mr Murray.

Mr Murray —I want to stress that, of course, exceptions for individuals are sometimes worthwhile. But what you are talking about here is a vast number of people. I mentioned to you that if one in 40 people were in care last century—the maths does not work out exactly—you have to multiply that one person by the number of people they are connected to. So you will end up saying one in four or one in five Australians have some form of connection with people who have been in care, either as friends, employers, partners, kids or something. That is a very big area of interest and it needs to be addressed because of its size.

Senator HUMPHRIES —I did not fully catch the question that Rachel Siewert asked. I think she asked about how you actually engineer this balance between freedom of information and the privacy legislation. You were saying there was somebody that you would refer to who would have an idea.

Mr Murray —Let me give you an exact response to a particular instance. If I, as a care leaver, go to a government authority and say, ‘Can you give me my records?’, they may or may not agree to give them, subject to proper proof of identity—which, by the way, many of these people lack because their names were changed or their birth certificates have been lost or whatever. But if I say, ‘I am trying to trace my brother. I think his name was Gary but I think he changed his surname,’ they will say, ‘We can’t do that. That is a third party.’ I think you have to have third party protection in privacy law. You must, because otherwise you will get people who, for an improper purpose, seek that information. But there needs to be a mechanism whereby that rule can be broken by exception.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Yes. The question I am asking is what is that mechanism? How should it be worded? Should a person who has been in care have a special right to access to those records because of their need?

Mr Murray —Typically, as you know, in designing legislation, where you design an exception you say, ‘This applies, but it does not apply in the following circumstances,’ which should be considered by perhaps the freedom of information officer which every department, certainly in governments, has or somebody of that nature. There must be a mechanism by which somebody can be asked the question: ‘Should this person Andrew be able to find that person Gary because they were in care?’ The presumption should be that they should. By the way, that is the presumption that Senator Faulkner is trying to put into freedom of information legislation; that the presumption is on disclosure. You have to justify keeping it secret, not the other way around. I would apply that same principle in these cases.

Senator HUMPHRIES —There are special provisions of the kind that you are mentioning here with respect to adoption laws; about when you can disclose information about a relinquishing parent. Obviously there is a question there about whether a parent wishes to be connected with a child that they have given up.

Mr Murray —That is right.

Senator HUMPHRIES —I assume you would accept that the principle should be nearer towards open disclosure in a situation like this, in that the sorts of dynamics you will find with a relinquishing parent are less likely to be found in a situation of a child who was put into an institution. Some of the same issues may well apply.

Mr Murray —Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Whereas it is easy to identify perhaps a parent who might not wish to be contacted, other family members might be in a different situation. I am looking for a simple rule that we could attempt to suggest through our report. Probably no simple rule is available.

Mr Murray —Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES —You are suggesting that the governing principle here ought to be the need of a person to be able to connect with their identity.

Mr Murray —That is right.

Senator HUMPHRIES —The international covenant’s language. That overrides the need for the privacy of people who might be connected with them through family.

Mr Murray —The professional academic psychological literature is very firm on the importance of identity and connection. It is an overriding need amongst human beings. Someone who is cautious would ask the question: ‘But what happens if the person who is to be connected with does not want to be connected?’ In my experience in the care leaver field, that has been most common—and it is not common—where it has occurred with parents, not with siblings, because a mother who was forced to give up a child, because she was young and felt she had to because she was unmarried, was often so ashamed that she never wanted to reconnect. I would say that is a minority. But mostly they did want to connect. With siblings, or aunts and uncles and so on, it very rarely, in my experience, is an issue. Some people do connect, find they have nothing in common and do not take it any further. But the literature that is out there and the submissions you have received are very expansive on this and indicate that fears in that particular area of connection which is unwanted are probably way overstated.

Senator HUMPHRIES —The recommendation that we made in the Forgotten Australians report about the reparations scheme embraced the idea that it should be contributed to by state and territory governments and by churches and agencies who have been involved in providing care. It does not appear, in the time since the report was brought down, as if anything has been done to engineer even a discussion between those parties as to coming forward and taking part in a reparations process. Do you think that the involvement of churches and agencies providing care is an essential ingredient in the national scheme?

Mr Murray —No, I do not. The reason I do not is that I think it highly unlikely that they would all become participants or contributors. Let me just use a rough figure, and it certainly is not the figure I have in mind, but I will use it as an example. Let’s assume the Commonwealth said a billion dollars would be appropriate, capped, as a reparations fund for all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who had been harmed in care, and the Commonwealth consider their part of that to be half a billion. I am just using rough figures. Please do not pin me to these figures. It would imply that the other half a billion has to be picked up by state governments, churches and agencies, and the Commonwealth would apply moral suasion, to use an old economist’s term, for the others to come to the party but, if they did not, they would still proceed with their half a billion. That is the way I would approach it. The other point to make is that some agencies and churches are able to provide non-monetary compensation in the form of counselling services, reconciliation, places in their aged-care facilities. There are all sorts of—

Senator SIEWERT —In kind.

Mr Murray —In kind, yes—that is the term I was looking for—rather than in cash. They are different ways in which people can come to the party, but under no circumstances should a federal redress scheme be dependent upon the participation of others. It should go ahead regardless, but recognising that it could be much more expansive if others came into the fold.

Senator HUMPHRIES —Do you think it would be appropriate, for argument’s sake, to strike a deal with the churches and agencies involved and say, ‘We will facilitate a national scheme. We, the Commonwealth, will contribute to it. We will pick a level which is appropriate, given what some states have already done, and we expect you to contribute to the cost of this exercise and reach some sort of figure,’ and say, on the basis of that, that there is agreement that the states do not change any of their other laws, as recommended by the Senate inquiry originally, to facilitate easier access to litigation—for example, redesigning the statute of limitations?

Mr Murray —I have tried to read quite widely on the reparations front, and it is a fascinating field, such as the Native Indians of America being compensated for the loss of relics and bones and all sorts of other things and, of course, the dreadful things that have happened to the Jewish people and so on. Everything surrounding reparations requires compromise. You actually cannot compensate somebody whose parents were gassed. You can never, ever compensate for that situation. You actually cannot compensate an 80-year-old who, as a result of being sodomised as a child, has never married, never had a decent relationship, has been a drunk and a substance abuser and had a life of misery. You cannot. What you can provide is a measured amount that is a contribution towards your loss. It is the nature of compensation: it is a measured amount. You have lost an arm in an accident at work; people have a view of that. But, if you are a great artist, you have lost it forever. So I have absolutely no problem with compromises, absolutely no problem with caps and absolutely no problem with a bargaining situation where the various parties agree to what their contribution is—because, without that process, you get nothing.

CHAIR —Andrew, following on from that, you remember that during the discussions around the previous report one of the most contentious issues was the royal commission, and we argued a lot amongst ourselves about where that recommendation should go. Some of the submissions have taken it up but with nowhere near the focus there was five years ago when a lot of the groups were arguing for it. It is very early in our hearings, so we have not got around to having those discussions yet, but you would remember the compromise we came to: if there had not been movement within a certain period of time, if there had not been change, we recommended that, because of the importance and the scale of the issues, a royal commission would be justified. Has your position changed on that?

Mr Murray —No, it has not. I am very glad you asked that.

CHAIR —It follows on from Gary’s question.

Mr Murray —Yes. It is one of the reasons I brought along the Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry report, Allegations of sexual abuse and death from criminal conduct, South Australia, March 2008. It is known as ‘the Mullighan inquiry’. That was not a royal commission, but it has those elements of judicial inquiry.

Essentially, the committee said three things. Firstly, it said statutes of limitation need to be addressed, because the problem with people who have been harmed in care is, generally speaking, they are only emotionally and psychologically ready to address it when decades have passed, frequently when they are in their fifties. It is not universal. Some people are angry enough to address it as soon as they hit adulthood, but mostly not, so statutes of limitation have to be addressed.

Secondly, the committee recognised that most of these situations were not capable of being proven without reasonable doubt, because they were one on one. An adult belting a child until they lose their teeth and are scarred from the whipping, or whatever it is, occurs in a situation where nobody else is a witness, and the evidence—the scars or whatever it is—is long gone.

Thirdly, to get at records and to resolve cover-ups, which is a feature of the abuse of children worldwide, you need royal commission powers. That is where the committee went to with that. Only Premier Rann in South Australia has got near to that. This was a judicial inquiry, but it had many of those elements. This is horrifying reading, I might tell you. It is awful.

CHAIR —Yes. We are talking with Judge Mullighan.

Mr Murray —It is just awful reading. But he examines all the evidence and all the cases, and dismisses a number of them for various sound reasons, and passes a number to the police to resurrect, and these are going through the courts now and, of course, they address the limitations issue. I think there is a good model here for the Commonwealth to consider. For the very worst cases, for the most extreme events that happened to children in care, you do need this sort of approach. Those events did not happen to the vast majority. Not everybody in care was sodomised; we must really get that idea out of our heads.

It has worked in South Australia. It has been effective. It does not resolve all the issues. It ends up being a relatively small number, because not everybody will come forward, or they have committed suicide or they have resolved it in their own minds, or whatever has happened. I forget the numbers, but it might be 1,500 cases. If you multiplied that around the country, maybe it is 15,000. It is not unmanageable, it does bring closure in an area where a mass injustice occurred and was never addressed, and it does allow for a process whereby people can get to the truth. Mullighan did a terrific job. For those of you who have not read it, it is not nice reading, but I do recommend it to you.

CHAIR —A couple of us met with Judge Mullighan on another inquiry. He was an exceptional person with whom to speak, because he was obviously deeply affected by this work, and so we are talking to him again for this inquiry. One of the other issues—and once again it is early in our discussions—is the frustration of looking at the submission list and seeing that none of the major providers have thought it worth their while to put a submission into this inquiry or to make themselves available. Most governments—even Victoria—have written to us saying they are doing stuff, although they did not come and talk to us yesterday. But it is frustrating when we know that there is evidence across a whole range of providers in this country—but particularly church based providers—and their approach seems to be that they will talk one on one with some individuals if they use their own system, and that is it. Do you have any comments about that or suggestions as to what we should do?

Certainly one of the arguments about the royal commission was that an organisation or a set-up of that nature would force people to come and be open about their past. I am reluctant—and you would remember that I was reluctant four years ago—because I think that the cost and the input of that could be used to help people going into the investigation phase. But we are feeling a sense of frustration, even at this early stage, because, if the people who clearly had the responsibility at the time to provide care do not believe that this is something that is valuable for them to participate in, where do we go in terms of engaging in that process?

Mr Murray —At one level it is a great pity, because we need to recognise that many churches and agencies—even recalcitrant churches, agencies and individuals—responded to the original recommendations very well and instituted processes.

CHAIR —And apologised.

Mr Murray —Many apologised. They recognised that they needed to sharpen up on their practices with respect to recruitment and supervision, even where they are currently engaged in institutional activities. Much progress has been made. I think it is important for the committee not to get into a mind frame that nothing happened, because much progress has been made and there has been a better perception of these matters in many respects.

On the other side, we know that worldwide, particularly in the churches, the knowledge that they concealed criminals and did not act on their crimes is still very fresh and very costly. In Canada the Anglican diocese for British Columbia was bankrupted. In the USA church processes have been bankrupted by aggressive attorneys pursuing these matters at law using the RICO legislation. Are you familiar with that? It is the racketeering legislation that was designed to attack unions. Various district attorneys-general have got hold of it and attacked the churches to get at their books, their files, their records.

CHAIR —That is equity, I think.

Mr Murray —The result is billions in compensation, because they were liable; they were criminally liable. So in their collective hearts, there is that great fear. In a country like ours, which does not have the aggressive tradition such as you see in American attorneys’ departments and where the media is not excited by these issues—they are, generally speaking, quite quiet—they just hope that it will go away.

CHAIR —That is right.

Mr Murray —It is very human, it is very understandable and it is very wrong. That is one of the reasons that I remain a supporter of a royal commission, because that will lance the boil. Amongst the tens of thousands of religious people who are in churches and agencies that deal with children in care, there is only a minority that are criminals, but the majority protected the minority. That is the issue, and I think the committee needs to be straightforward and aggressive about that.

CHAIR —I have one other question. I know you will follow it very closely when the Hansard is available on the net, but we had evidence yesterday quoting figures, and one of the difficulties is getting accurate figures, as you know. They were figures from Broken Rites which talked about Australia having the highest incidence in the world of children in care. I am going to clarify, when I read it, whether that is per capita or whatever, but it was very confronting. I had not heard those figures before. It was comparing us with Canada, the US, Ireland and the UK, and I will find out where the figures came from. Is it your understanding that Australia put more kids into institutional care than any other nation?

Mr Murray —As you know, I like numbers and statistics.

CHAIR —Yes, and we do not have good numbers.

Mr Murray —When I finally made the connection, I could not believe the volume.

CHAIR —No, you were very excited.

Mr Murray —Yes. In one of the Mary MacKillop submissions, I think it was, they said they had 115,000 children, if I remember correctly, just through their organisation over time. I find that mind-boggling. Whether it is true or not I do not know, but the fact that it was probably one in 40 Australians I find astonishing. But when you look at other countries, you have to remember the different categories. For instance, Britain reduced its children in care by exporting them or, let’s say, deporting them. The figures for Canada suggest that about 12 per cent of their population is descended from what were known as the ‘home children’—people sent from Great Britain to Canada. I do not know whether our figures are higher than anywhere else. I have no idea about Scandinavia or China or wherever—not at all.

CHAIR —I found these figures particularly confronting yesterday, and I do not remember having that evidence in the previous inquiry.

Mr Murray —I presume your evidence was from Dr Wayne Chamley.

CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Murray —He is a very considered individual—

CHAIR —He is, yes.

Mr Murray —so I presume he would have done his research.

CHAIR —Thank you very much. I know that you will be in touch. I know that you are the patron of Families Australia.

Mr Murray —I am one of the patrons.

CHAIR —We heard from the alliance yesterday, and they were talking about the work they were doing. Some of the care leavers have put comments on record that they felt that some of the existing organisations were not engaging, were exclusive, and that people were closed out because of issues about ‘members only’. They particularly referred to CLAN and to the alliance. The alliance did put on record yesterday that they had removed that and that there is no longer a members-only component on their website.

In terms of engagement with the current organisations and the openness, do you have any comments about people feeling excluded or whether that would be natural with people who have had difficulty over many years in being engaged anyway? Some of the submissions were very confronting, in that people felt that some organisations had been funded and favoured, others not, and that there is this divisive nature of the groups.

Mr Murray —That is a really big question.

CHAIR —I thought it was, but I thought I would grab you before you left.

Mr Murray —I think you have to start with the individuals. It is dangerous to paint a whole section of the community with a particular psychological profile. But the science of psychographics does exist, and when children have been treated in the way that many of these people were treated—not all of them—and have not managed it well, they tend to have characteristics which make organisational relationships as tricky as personal relationships. This is a group of people whose personal relationships are not great, and as soon as that extends into an organisation you have problems because you get this defensive, aggressive style—a brittleness and a sense of anger and frustration—which easily comes to the surface and so on. You know what I am talking about. You have met them yourselves. As a consequence, they can be very critical of others—other institutions or other individuals or whatever—and you are not going to change that. That is a fact of life. That is a consequence of their upbringing and in some it is a consequence of character. The way you deal with that is to have multiple organisations so that people have choice. Look at the Indigenous community. People talk about Indigenous politics. It is very vibrant and aggressive and extremely fractious.

CHAIR —And competitive.

Mr Murray —It is no different to the white community. So you have multiple organisations. The great weakness in the non-Indigenous community is a much lower level of funding and of formal professional support. Think of the Indigenous community and the degree of formal professional support. Someone crudely put to me that the white middle class have become engaged there and they have not become engaged with non-Indigenous people. I do not know if that is true, but the fact is that the CLANs of the world, the Child Migrant Trusts of the world and the voluntary organisations are terribly badly funded and supported, and bureaucrats make them jump through hoops, which they do not for the longer established Indigenous advocacy groups. My answer to that is that governments have got to be a little more ‘open-walleted’, to introduce a new phrase into the lexicon.

CHAIR —I was wondering about that term, but I get the meaning.

Mr Murray —You know what I mean—and more sensitive to the need to have a multiplicity of community organisations. It works in environmental groups. There are all sorts of environmental groups out there and there is the same need in this field. Does that help you?

CHAIR —Yes. I wanted to get that on record. Thank you very much for your time. If there is anything else that you think we need to know, please keep in contact, as this report is due in June.

Mr Murray —Thank you.

Proceedings suspended from 10.52 am to 11.13 am