HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.54 pm]: I rise tonight following the Premier’s formal apology in the other place today to child sexual abuse victims. I am pleased that Western Australia has led the way in delivering an apology. It has certainly been a long time coming. I would like to add the Greens’ voice in recognition of the importance of this issue. We are truly sorry for the horrendous things that children in this state experienced while in the supposed care of trusted institutions. Nothing can undo the wrongs that were done to the survivors of child sexual abuse, but that does not mean that apologising for these wrongs is not worthwhile. Recognition is important, and it is powerful. So many survivors spent so long not being believed, and being ignored. This apology says to every survivor, “You are heard and believed.” It also says, “What was done to you when you were a child was so very wrong.” The apology also acknowledges that as a society, we abysmally failed in our duty to protect children. A formal apology to survivors was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The royal commission’s work was extensive. From January 2013 to December 2017, the royal commission examined more than 1.2 million documents, heard evidence from more than 1 200 witnesses, conducted 57 public hearings across Australia and published 50 reports. From this work has come 409 recommendations. I am pleased to hear that the government has today provided its response to the royal commission’s recommendations. I understand that the government has accepted, or accepted in principle, 289 of the 409 recommendations put forward by the royal commission, with 21 subject to further consideration and 99 not applicable to the state government. I am pleased that there are no recommendations that have not been accepted by the government, although I am interested to know why 21 recommendations are being considered rather than supported at this stage. I look forward to the opportunity to hear more information about this matter and to consider the government’s response in detail.

More than 8 000 people shared their personal stories in a private session with the royal commissioner. Many gave their consent for their accounts to be published as short narratives. These heartbreaking contributions are precious. They provide incredibly powerful insights into the horrendous experiences suffered by these children. I commend these stories to members. They need to be heard. The purpose of these narratives is to give a voice to survivors, inform the community, and ultimately help make institutions safer for children. It is also important that we acknowledge the stories that have not been told by those survivors who have chosen not to, or who are unable to, tell their stories, and by those survivors, of whom there are far too many, who have already left us, many of them by their own hand.

I also welcome the formal announcement today that Western Australia is joining the National Redress Scheme. The establishment of a commonwealth redress scheme was also one of the royal commission’s recommendations. Redress is vitally important, not only as recognition that the abuse occurred, but also as recognition of the profound impact of this abuse on survivors’ lives, wellbeing, education, health, relationships and earning potential. I look forward to the scheme becoming operational as soon as possible. I appreciate that the scheme is far from perfect. The Greens have already raised significant concerns about the scheme, and I have raised them in this place. I reiterate that it is crucial that the mistakes that were made in the operation of Redress WA are not repeated. It is vital that the scheme’s application processes are easily accessible, prompt and transparent. The risk of re-traumatising applicants is significant. It has been estimated that 50 per cent of Western Australian redress claimants will not be eligible under the commonwealth scheme because the abuse they suffered was not sexual abuse. This would make it a third time damage for this cohort following the terrible way in which Redress WA was handled. I urge the state government and the federal government to work to address this gap.

The royal commission recommended a $200 000 cap on the redress scheme, and I join my federal colleague Senator Rachel Siewert in urging the federal government to commit to that $200 000 cap rather than the $150 000 cap to which it is currently committed. I acknowledge the work of the state Attorney General in trying to seek resolution with the federal government on some of these issues. The Greens were very concerned to hear that some people with criminal convictions may not have been eligible to seek redress under the national scheme. Therefore, I am pleased to hear that there has been some movement around this issue and possibly now some discretion in determining eligibility, and I look forward to hearing further information from the Attorney General on that issue.

I urge more organisations to commit to the redress scheme so that it can be as extensive, functional and effective as possible. I am also pleased to note that survivors will soon have the option of pursuing civil litigation following the Attorney General’s advice that the Civil Liability Legislation Amendment (Child Sexual Abuse Actions) Bill 2017, which we have debated in this place and passed already, will be proclaimed on 1 July 2018. The outcomes we are celebrating today—the Premier’s apology to survivors, a commitment to join the National Redress Scheme, and the civil litigation legislation soon to be proclaimed—are due to the extraordinary efforts of the many survivors who have bravely campaigned for years and years. We owe it to them and to the children of today and the future to wholeheartedly commit to addressing all the recommendations of the royal commission and to ensure that the sexual abuse of children in trusted institutions in our state is never able to happen again.


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