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Forgotton Australians remain mostly forgotten.

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Yesterday the Federal Government handed down its response to the unanimous recommendations contained in Forgotten Australians and Protecting Vulnerable Children: A national challenge, the reports of the Senate Community Affairs Committee inquiry into children in institutional or out of home care in Australia.

“My overall reaction is disappointment”, Senator Murray stated. “Time and time again in its response the Government just refers the recommendations to the states and territories or to the churches and past providers of ‘care’ for institutionalised children. We all realise it is an issue for all nine Governments in Australia, but we are entitled to expect the Commonwealth to show leadership.

“Not only are we talking about over 500 000 Australians who were directly affected last century, but the legions of children in need of child protection in future.

“This is a Government that does not hesitate to show its strength on the issues that matter to it, like industrial relations, but sees the restitution of past harm or the issues of child protection as second order issues, not worthy of any real investment in political will or political leadership.

“This is most evident in its refusal to agree to recommendation 8 of Forgotten Australians and its counterpart in Protecting Vulnerable Children, recommendation 17. These recommend the establishment of a National Commissioner for children and young people that would drive a national reform agenda for child protection.

“It is also as if there is a general shrugging of the shoulders by the Coalition Government at what the survivors of institutional abuse suffered and continue to endure. Its refusal to even consider establishing a national reparations fund, as exists in Canada, Ireland and even Tasmania, indicates a hard-edged approach. In fact hardly anywhere in the Response is any willingness to put its hand in its pocket. Again, a huge contrast with the way in which it splashes out with abandon on things that matter to it, like advertising IR.

“On the positive side though, the Government has agreed (in principle) to convene a national conference of service providers and support groups, as well as a national summit on child protection in Melbourne next year.

“Perhaps the Government can still learn that the scourge of child abuse is a matter of national importance requiring a national approach. I will continue to campaign as well as to hope,” Senator Murray concluded.

Media contact: Senator Andrew Murray 0419 958 038