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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10841

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (18:02): It is an honour to be able to stand in the Australian parliament to make a contribution to the debate that began yesterday when we, really, stood as one in the Australian parliament to deliver a national apology to the victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. It's one of those days that I had many people contact me from my electorate of Newcastle to say that's the kind of parliament that we want to see, a parliament that worked constructively together to deliver a very long-overdue apology. That will be met differently by each person who heard it and people have felt the impact of that abuse in different ways over their life. But there is a universal agreement, I think, that the parliament stood yesterday as one and acted on a very grave wrong from the past. And that was coming off a very long history of this parliament trying to come to terms with what has been a really horrific and appalling part of our national history, of the deep, systemic abuse that has existed in institutions. Yes, there were people who heckled yesterday. There were people who made their own very vocal contributions from the floor in the Great Hall, and indeed, from the galleries but I think both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition showed great grace in accepting that there were different points of view and that, notwithstanding those points of view, this parliament had to, really, still acknowledge the grave and systemic abuses that have taken place in so many of our institutions over time.

I want to pay tribute, first and foremost, to the survivors and indeed to acknowledge those who didn't survive to see that apology yesterday. There were many, many people in that room who carried a lot of stories of their brothers and sisters and other family members who didn't survive to see that apology yesterday, and I think it's really important that we acknowledge those people who are no longer with us and feel the pain of those families who continue to grieve. I'd also like to acknowledge that, whilst we had the apology here in the national parliament, there were many local events taking place across the country and in my home town of Newcastle. I thank the lord mayor and the Newcastle City Council for hosting a screening in the city hall so that the many, many people in Newcastle who are deeply touched by this chapter of our history were given an opportunity to be with friends, family and those who support them as they witnessed the screening of the apology.

As I said, I pay tribute to both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for leading the debate yesterday. I was truly honoured by the presence of Julia Gillard, returning to this House—as she should, given her very primary role in the establishment of the royal commission. I think it is one of the extraordinary hallmarks of her prime ministership. I have a very strong memory of the note she penned to Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy in the last hours of her prime ministership, thanking Joanne for never giving up, for being that journalist who was relentless in her pursuit of truth and in exposing the shocking and deep systemic forms of abuse that were happening in Newcastle and the Hunter region in those religious institutions. Jenny Macklin, Nicola Roxon and now Linda Burney will be three other Labor women who will play a very prominent role, I believe, not just in the apology that was delivered yesterday but in what this parliament does going forward. I think Linda Burney will be playing a critical role in helping us shape the way that the redress scheme will work in this nation.

I want to touch on the work of the royal commission. There was some extraordinary testimony given in that royal commission that would shock anybody to their core. There were over 16,000 people who reached out to make contact with the royal commission. I thank each and every one of those commissioners, who to this day provide us with a model of the gold standard royal commission in any community. Their capacity to do the outreach work into communities to ensure that everybody coming forward was well supported in doing so was extraordinary. We had many weeks of testimony in Newcastle, and, to our deep regret, we have volumes in that royal commission dedicated to the abuse that took place in our region. As I said, Joanne McCarthy from the Newcastle Herald and Peter Fox, a former detective from the New South Wales police, were incredibly brave people who were determined, against all odds in the early days of these discussions, to shine a great big light on this part of our national shame and to do so in a way that ensured that those survivors and victims did not ever feel shamed. Their approach was always one that was what I would call very survivor centred. They believed from day one the voices of those survivors, and of course what went on to become so important in the royal commission was the fact that people were able to speak very freely about some of the most horrific aspects of their childhood. But they knew they were being believed. They were being listened to. They were being well supported in giving that evidence, and they had faith that the royal commissioners would come down with strong recommendations, which they did.

That really brings me to the challenge before this parliament today. I was honoured, as was my colleague Steve Irons opposite me. We were very privileged, as were some colleagues in the Senate, Derryn Hinch and Rachel Siewert, one from Victoria and one from WA, to be part of the Prime Minister's reference group in helping to shape something of the apology yesterday. I don't take any credit away from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition—they were their own words and speeches—but we assisted in a series of 58 face-to-face consultations and lots and lots of work around what it was that survivors wanted to see in that apology. I did want to give an acknowledgement to Cheryl Edwards, who chaired that, and Caroline Caroll, Chrissie Foster, Craig Hughes-Cashmore, Hetty Johnston, Leonie Sheedy, Richard Weston and the four parliamentarians who I spoke of before. It was a real privilege to be a part of that group, and I am still constantly in awe of the generous spirit with which people came to the consultations and gave openly despite often reliving trauma themselves.

But it does bring us to the very real work of this parliament going forward now, and that is ensuring that this National Redress Scheme supplies the body of real action and long-living response to the royal commission. I think what we need to be very mindful of is ensuring that this is a scheme that is co-designed at every step of the way and that survivors are always front and centre of everything we do from now on.