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Thursday, 17 July 2014
Page: 8483

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Mr IRONS (Swan) (09:40): I, too, would like to acknowledge Conor Murphy and the contribution made by the member for Fremantle. I had the privilege of meeting Conor with the Rare Voices group and have spent much time with his mother Lesley, and my heartfelt condolences go out to the Murphy family. I also acknowledge the member for Fremantle for employing a person with a disability and giving them an opportunity to join with the rest of us in this wonderful place in the life of the parliament, so I acknowledge that contribution you have just made.

We are coming up to the fifth anniversary of the apology to the forgotten Australians. I know many of my colleagues have heard me talk before in this place about the forgotten Australians and the need for an inquiry into the systematic abuse and neglect of wards of the state that took place in state government and religious institutions throughout Australia. Thankfully the Royal» «Commission» into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was formed and it has sought to provide these innocent people with a voice to fight back and regain some semblance of control over the physical, sexual and mental abuse they suffered.

Having a voice is a powerful thing, and for too long these innocents have suffered in silence or had their claims of abuse dismissed by those who were meant to protect them. As a former ward of the state myself, I have championed the issues of forgotten Australians since entering federal parliament through my involvement with the apology and by calling for a «royal» «commission» . I have now added my support to the commission's request for a two-year extension and associated resources to continue its inquiry on behalf of all those who, until now, have had no justice and no protection. I have expressed in writing to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General my support for these things and also the need to structure an independent national body to oversee the implementation of a redress scheme for funds contributed by states, churches and charities. These are the key steps that should be taken to give sufferers of abuse and neglect the closure they need, and to send a message to perpetrators, both past and present, that society and government will not tolerate a repeat of this sorry period. I announced this support publicly at the 14th anniversary celebration of Care Leavers Australia Network, or CLAN, a support group for the victims of child sex abuse, on 5 July, along with the members for Jagajaga, Blaxland and Corio, who attended that celebration as well.

I also had the honour of launching a truly inspirational book about twin sisters Sonia and Sarah who spent the first 14 years of their lives in five different orphanages and children's homes in Sydney from 1950 to 1964. Sonia St Claire wrote The Girl in the Locker not only to have a written account of her life and her struggle to overcome adversity but also to help others who have suffered the lasting effects of abuse. I have read and been told many stories of those who have suffered acts of abuse and neglect in institutions, and I thank those who, like Sonia, have had the courage to share these stories—particularly with the «royal» «commission and by putting pen to paper. The stories of the forgotten Australians need to be believed, they need to hear an apology from their abusers and they need to be provided with the access to services such as counselling to help them deal with the abuse and neglect they were forced to endure.