By Matthew Lau
Australia’s newest Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to go ahead with the national apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse on 22 October.
The fallout of last month’s leadership spill – which saw Mr Morrison supersede Malcolm Turnbull – has not affected plans to deliver a historic national apology for child sexual abuse.
The preceding Turnbull Government announced last June that the apology would coincide with National Children’s Week.
Survivors and their supporters can register through a ballot on the apology website to attend the event in Canberra.
There will be satellite events around the country for people who cannot make the trip interstate.
The National Office for Child Safety was established within the Department of Social Services from 1 July 2018 in response to recommendations of the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
On 31 August, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia published and accepted 98 per cent of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
The one recommendation they were unable to accept was in relation to the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Penance.
The ACBC said there had been no compelling evidence to suggest that removing the protection for confession would improve child safety.
The Royal Commission also made a number of recommendations that would involve the Vatican.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, ACBC President, released a statement on 21 August to affirm that the Catholic Bishops of Australia welcome the Letter to the People of God that Pope Francis has written regarding sexual abuse in the Church.
“We share the Holy Father’s determination to protect young people and vulnerable adults,” the Brisbane Archbishop said.
“The Royal Commission has done much good for this country, especially in creating a safe place for survivors to be heard and believed. We again thank the survivors who have so courageously shared their stories.
On 12 September, Archbishop Coleridge said he welcomed Pope Francis’ decision to convene a meeting of the presidents of Bishops Conferences to discuss the Church’s ongoing efforts to address the immense harm caused by sexual abuse.
“Such a meeting is unusual, but it is appropriate and justified as the Church internationally must stand united to eliminate this evil from our midst.
“As the Australian bishops and leaders of Catholic religious orders said last month, so must the universal Church say as one: Never again,” he added.
“The meeting in February will be no quick fix, but it is a step in the right direction and [we] may be able to suggest to Pope Francis further steps to be taken.”
For more information about the national apology, visit: www.nationalapologyconsultation.gov.au