The Federal government has administered a kick in the guts to the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse by bluntly opposing the establishment of a national redress scheme, writes The Sydney Morning Herald in an editorial.
During months of hearings and in many submissions, survivors and their representatives made clear to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abusde they strongly supported a national approach as the one most likely to deliver justice, fairness, and consistency.
And yet, despite bipartisan support for the establishment of the commission and its terms of reference suggesting all governments accept the need for effective redress, the Abbott government rejected their "ideal" model at the first opportunity.
Perhaps it is looking at examples such as the Irish Residential Institutions Redress Board. At its inception in 2002, the board was expected to deliver €200 million (A$282.5 million) to 2000 survivors of abuse of all forms, be half funded by Catholic religious orders and take up to five years. At the start of 2014, 16,000 survivors had received €1.6 billion, mostly from State coffers.
The Royal Commission's actuarial modelling estimates that 65,000 Australians might seek redress, but warns it's impossible to predict numbers with any certainty. It estimates a scheme with an average payment of $65,000 would total $4.3 billion over 10 years, with government paying $1.9 billion.
The Federal government argues establishing a single national entity would be extremely complex, and require "significant time and resources." The Herald accepts it is right – a national scheme would be costly, and would involve difficult negotiations with the States. It would demand solutions to complex questions, including how to avoid the Irish example.
Nevertheless, as the Commission points out, although the primary responsibility for the sexual abuse of children must lie with the abuser and the institution which harboured them, it occurred in the context of a broader social failure, and a culture that gave unquestioning respect to authority and very little to children.
It is the responsibility of the nation as a whole to ensure the suffering of survivors is recognised in a tangible way with fair redress, consistently administered. Difficulty should not be an excuse for dodging a moral obligation.
Former Riverview teacher writes fictional play about sexual abuse in schools (The Daily Telegraph)