Child sex abuse a national tragedy

Child sex abuse is a national tragedy, says Justice Peter McClellan.

McClellan is the Chair of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Commission learned that child sex abuse has occurred in almost every type of institution where children lived or attended.

Furthermore, “it is not a case of a few rotten apples,” he says.

“Society’s major institutions have seriously failed.

“In many cases those failings have been exacerbated by a manifestly inadequate response to the abused person.

“The problems have been so widespread, and the nature of the abuse so heinous, that it is difficult to comprehend.”

More than 15,000 survivors or their relatives have contacted the Royal Commission since it was created in 2012.

McClellan says each of the more than 8,000 personal stories told to Commissioners in private sessions had a profound impact on them and their staff.

It has been “a privilege for the Commissioners to sit with and listen to survivors,” McClellan says.

“The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused.

“They deserve our nation’s thanks.

“Alleged perpetrators were often allowed to have access to children even when religious leaders knew they posed a danger.”

Rather than reporting the crimes when they came to light, alleged perpetrators were often transferred to other locations where they had further access to children.

Furthermore, McClellan says the Royal Commission received evidence that “at least in Sydney and Melbourne there was for many years an understanding that the police would protect members of the Church who may have offended”.

The Royal Commission is due to have its last public sitting in Sydney next month.

It will then deliver its final report to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

At the same time, it will be thanking the community for its support.

Francis Sullivan, the CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, says the report is likely to comprise up to 17 volumes.

At least three of those volumes concern the Catholic Church.

It is not yet known when the report will be made public.

Usually this occurs only after tabling in Parliament.

It may not be released to the public until Australia’s federal and state legislatures sit again in early 2018.


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