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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10833

Ms HUSAR (Lindsay) (17:26): I'd like to acknowledge the words of the member for Higgins. Obviously, this is deeply emotional content and certainly a difficult thing to rise in here and speak about. Yesterday, as a parliament, on behalf of our nation, we did take that fundamental step towards justice for the survivors and the victims of child sex abuse. This is a very, very small step but one in the right direction, and I'm deeply saddened that it has taken us so long to right the wrongs of the past injustices. To all of those with innocence stolen and childhoods lost, who went on to suffer the effects of abuse induced trauma caused by people who should've known better, the apology is not just a sign of righting wrongs; it is a commitment to do better.

I have raised my own children to say sorry, but only if they are, and, in being sorry, to make a commitment to never commit the same mistake again. This is with moderate success with children, but for adults there should be no excuse. I heard many stories throughout the royal commission of terrible injustices. A now grown man with grandchildren of his own, six in all, told me of his abuse in an institution. I heard from a man who, since the time of his abuse as a child in a boys home, had not told anyone in his family about his mistreatment, not one single person—not the woman he married, not his siblings, not his parents; no-one. What an isolating and sad secret that is to keep. After his initial abuse in the boys home, he did tell someone though. He disclosed his treatment to another adult at that facility—an adult in a trusted position who should've known better, an adult who should've done something, an adult who should've cared and who should have acted, an adult who, in acting, may have prevented this perpetrator from committing more abuse on another child. But that didn't happen. Instead, the young boy was taken to the hospital wing to recover from the abuse and then remained there until they relocated the perpetrating adult to another facility to repeat the sins all over again.

This young, traumatised boy grew up, like we all do, bearing the scars and hangovers of our childhoods. He became a school dropout and engaged in petty crime. As the stresses of day-to-day life mounted, he spiralled into a life of alcoholism. He became a violent perpetrator of domestic violence. This little boy, who had his childhood interrupted by an adult behaving badly, became a man whose life became ruined. Later on, he would spend time in jail. This little boy grew into a man with trauma so deep, it impacted every single corner of his life. This is a man I know well, a man I have known my entire life, who held a secret so close to his chest for nearly all of his life. Only through the process of a royal commission, only through hearing the stories publicised, reading the papers, and revealing the ugliness of the abuse was he able to speak about it, to raise his voice. I thank all of those people who spoke out. It is their power and their courage that allowed people like this little boy, now a man, to speak up. I'm grateful for them and I call them the real heroes of this story—a story that I hope will not become a set of recommendations in a report somewhere gathering dust.

I'm grateful for those in this place who brought forward the royal commission and showed leadership—something so many others are too scared to do. Too often the courage the do what is right is absent and condemned to popular opinion or pressure only.

I want to thank Joanne McCarthy, the journalist at the Newcastle Herald. I note the member for Newcastle is here now and she will probably be up here later to talk about exactly that. Jo McCarthy followed the story and brought it to light. She gave so many who had no voice the courage and she showed her journalistic craft as being what it should be. She showed personal integrity, and followed the story to where it got to, where we saw it. I would like to commend the courage of Chrissie Foster and her family, who, even through deep personal tragedy, still fought for others; and Leonie Sheedy at CLAN for making sure there was somewhere for victims to turn. None of these people wanted to be in this position, to draw the thanks of the houses. But to help so many people, I am thankful they were and I'm sorry that they had to.

I will always wonder, for that little boy who grew into the man, what kind of life he might have gone on to have. If not for the abuse, if not from living through adults doing bad things, he, I am sure, grieves for a life of a potential unmet, a life denied the freedom of a safe childhood, a life impacted and stained forever by actions of adults who had a choice and who chose to behave in this way. This is but one story. I am sure, though, it reflects so many stories and so many unmet-potential lives. There were 8,000 victims who provided submissions in private sessions and 1,000 victims who provided written submissions. Half of those victims were between 10—that's the same age as my youngest child—and 14 years of age at the time of suffering the abuse; 64.3 per cent of those victims were boys at the time the abuse occurred, with 93.8 per cent of the abusers being men and 83.8 per cent of those abusers were adults.

This House can be powerful and I pay tribute to the monumental work of then Prime Minister Julia Gillard when on 12 November 2012 she announced the decision to establish a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. She said at the time that:

The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse had been heartbreaking.

They were then and they still are today. Further, she said:

These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject.

The individuals concerned deserve the most thorough of investigations into the wrongs that have been committed against them.

They deserve to have their voices heard and their claims investigated.

She believed that a royal commission was the best way to do this, and there were people that said that it wasn't, but I'm glad that she persisted.

It was the Gillard Labor government that created the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse in 2013, and this is the exact kind of thing a royal commission ought to be used for. The royal commission gave the victims of child sexual abuse hope that they can have a future in which they can move on from the past, where they were wronged. I want to thank all of the commissioners and the staff, who, for months, listened to what would have been incredibly heartbreaking and disturbing testimony of the courageous men and women who provided it. Your work is appreciated and will not be forgotten.

I want to thank the survivors of sexual abuse, who have been waiting their whole lives for someone to take accountability for what was done and for someone to address the horrific crimes that were perpetrated against them as children. Our communities, our institutions and our nation do better into the future to pay those survivors the ultimate honour by making sure the crimes of the past are not committed into the future. Thank you.