Well thank you very much Dan and we are here at Kirribilli House on the edge of Sydney Harbour on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. We honour them and their elders past and present and all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who are with us today. I want to thank you all for being here today, in particular the Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian and the Premier of Victoria Dan Andrews, our ministers from the state, the two Attorneys General and of course the Assistant Minister for Children, Dr Gillespie.
Now through the Royal Commission over 16,000 individuals were contacted and told their stories. By the time it concluded, more than 8,000 of those were heard directly in private sessions and over than 1,000 survivors provided a written account of their experience.
Today, we honour the bravery of those survivors and their families.
We also pause to remember those who are no longer with us. Leonie, I know that is what you are doing now. Your passion and your love is so eloquent and is matched by others here today and elsewhere, so thank you.
They’re children, who deserve to be safe, whose lives were shockingly impacted by cruel and evil people who perpetrated violence that is difficult to comprehend. But we have to confront the truth that has been revealed, as difficult as it is.
The Royal Commission validated the stories of the survivors. It enabled survivors to be heard and most importantly, to be believed. “We believe you,” these are the most important things that we must say and we must say them from our heart. Because the survivors, the victims of these shocking crimes, these shocking wrongs over so many years, were not believed. The crime, the assault, was compounded again and again by indifference and resistance, by legal obstacles, by institutional denial. They were covered up and ignored.
Now today, we are seeking to provide redress for those shocking crimes.
I am pleased to be able to announce today that Victoria and New South Wales will both join the National Redress Scheme. This is an historic moment.
This means that over 9,000 people who were sexually abused in New South Wales institutions, New South Wales government institutions and 5,000 abused in Victorian government institutions, will have access to the national scheme. It will also pave the way for churches, charities and other non-government institutions in both states to join the scheme, which would include a further 20,000 people who were abused in those institutions.
Now, we are encouraging the other states and territories to opt in to the national scheme. I know that many of you have also been making representations to those jurisdictions. Gladys and Dan and I were just talking about the representations we have made, very directly and very frankly to the other First Ministers at COAG meetings. We also expect the other institutions, churches and others to sign up to the scheme.
The goal of the scheme is to get everyone on board so there is a national redress scheme and nobody is left out of access to this redress.
Now, I want to thank all of you and so many others around the country, thousands of them who fought tirelessly for these shocking crimes to be exposed. Many of you are suffering your own trauma, yet you’ve still found room in your lives to advocate for and support others.
While bearing your own wounds, you have sought to bind up the wounds of others. That is truly selfless love and we thank you for it.
On behalf of the nation, my plan is to make a national apology and that should in no way diminish the direct apology survivors should receive from the institutions themselves who failed them.
I am pleased the membership of the survivor-focused reference group is being announced today, so we can work together and shape the apology in accordance with the wishes of survivors. Where is Kathleen Daley, where is she? There, hello Kathy. Kathleen, she is from Griffith University and has very recently written a book on these processes of redress and the means of designing and delivering apologies. Kathleen, I thank you for that. It’s going to be an important part of our process in making sure the apology is meaningful. Some of you were there in 2009 when together with Prime Minister Rudd we delivered an apology to the forgotten generations, to survivors of child migrants, childcare leaders. That was a very important, very, very important moment, as you all remember.
This has got to be just as important; a time of acknowledgement, a time of compassion, a time of love, a time of redress and reconciliation.
So thank you all again for being here today. This is very important and a very historic moment.