‘We believe you’: PM’s emotional apology

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has delivered a national apology to the thousands of victims of child sexual abuse.

In a lengthy address to parliament Mr Morrison acknowledged and apologised for the harm victims of child sexual abuse have been caused.

At some points during the emotional address it seemed as if the prime minister had to regain his composure.

"Mr Speaker, today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice," Mr Morrison said.

"And, again, today, we say sorry. To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.

"To the whistleblowers, who we did not listen to, sorry. To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands, children, who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry.

"To generations past and present, sorry."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised to the victims of child sex abuse.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised to the victims of child sex abuse.

"I simply say I believe you, we believe you, your country believes you," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison's apology in parliament will be followed by an address from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten before the House of Representatives is adjourned.

Question time has been moved back 30 minutes to 2.30pm.

With the apology will come an announcement of a museum and research centre to remember the bravery of victims.

Not everyone was impressed leading up to the apology, with a small addition to the seating set up causing fury among some attendees.

As hundreds of victims converged on Canberra this morning a photo of the seating area caused some controversy among victims.

A bottle of water and packet of tissues was photographed under a seat reserved for MP Tony Smith.

It appears that these items have been placed under multiple chairs and one victim told news.com.au that the addition has "drawn ire" from many of those attending.

Guests have been given tissues as the PM prepares to deliver a national apology to thousands of victims of child sexual abuse.
Guests have been given tissues as the PM prepares to deliver a national apology to thousands of victims of child sexual abuse.

"Tissues are for the tears of victims, survivors and their families. It annoys many, not just me," he said.

"It is annoying to many because the politicians are just pandering to the moment."

After suffering years of sexual abuse as a child, Sydney man Ray Leary, 57, said institutions had covered up horrific abuses of power and communities had shut their ears to the stories of survivors.

He said the apology was long overdue.

"This apology is not only to the victims of child sexual abuse, but their families, their children, the effect it has had on their lives," Mr Leary told AAP.

"It means that the government, on behalf of the people of Australia, believe us and are apologising for the sins of their fathers.

"For much of my life I was laughed at or ridiculed when I told the stories of the abuse I received growing up as a state ward."

A child victim of the infamous Robert "Dolly" Dunn paedophile ring, Mr Leary had tried to live a normal life by holding down a job and living with his wife and two children, but everything unravelled when he was forced to confront his past.

Mr Leary is a victim of the infamous Robert “Dolly” Dunn (pictured) paedophile ring.
Mr Leary is a victim of the infamous Robert “Dolly” Dunn (pictured) paedophile ring.

After being called to give evidence at the Wood Royal Commission, he lost everything trying to get justice.

His marriage ended and he stopped working.

"I attempted to commit suicide," he said.

While trying to find a way forward, Mr Leary created a group for male victims of child sexual abuse to share their experiences in a safe space.

"Helping others put me on a path towards healing," he said. "It's very hard for a wife to understand this, it's very hard for a mother and father to understand this, and it's very hard for any family to understand.

"I have been receiving closure and I hope this final apology will provide complete closure and I can look forward to the next part of my life."

Another victim, who has lived with the pain of her abuse for nine decades, Katie, 96, from Sydney hopes the apology will bring her a sense of peace.

She is now one of Australia's oldest survivors of child sexual abuse, and she said she cannot forget the humiliation and pain she suffered during her years at the institution in Gore Hill on Sydney's north shore. She was only six years old when she arrived at the orphanage.

"It's a big thing for people to listen and take note of what we went through," she told ABC.

Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said no one could underestimate what the apology would mean to victims.

Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke says today will be a sombre day. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Senior Labor frontbencher Tony Burke says today will be a sombre day. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

"The tone of the day will be quite different to what a normal parliamentary day will be - and it needs to be," Mr Burke told ABC Radio on Monday.

"People have been waiting so long to hear those words: 'we believe you'."

The speech will also include a commitment that the government reports every year for the next five years on the progress of the royal commission's recommendations.

After the five years are up, a report will be handed in 10 years' time. The apology follows the release of last year's report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The inquiry received more than 40,000 phone calls, 25,000 letters and emails, and held about 8000 private sessions, resulting in 2575 referrals to authorities, including police.

The government has accepted 104 of the 122 recommendations handed down by the royal commission, with the other 18 being closely examined in consultation with states and territories.


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