'National tragedy': Final sitting of royal commission into child sexual abuse calls for change

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Changes must be made to address the failures that led to tens of thousands of children being sexually abused in Australian institutions in what is a national tragedy, the head of a royal commission says.

Child abuse royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan has again warned the sexual abuse of children is not just a problem from the past, with children continuing to be abused in institutions today.

He said many institutions failed children over many decades while the child protection, criminal and civil justice systems let them down.

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Peter McClellan opens the final sitting of the child abuse royal commission
Peter McClellan opens the final sitting of the child abuse royal commission

The royal commission has already called for significant reforms in areas such as the criminal and civil Systems, as well as measures to make institutions safe for children.

Its final report, to be handed to the governor-general on Friday, will outline further changes.

"There may be leaders and members of some institutions who resent the intrusion of the royal commission into their affairs," Justice McClellan told the final sitting of the five-year inquiry in Sydney on Thursday.

Federal MP Jenny Macklin at the final sitting of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Thursday, December 14, 2017.
Federal Labor MP Jenny Macklin at the final sitting of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on 14 December, 2017.
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

"However, if the problems we have identified are to be adequately addressed, changes must be made.

"There must be changes in the culture, structure and governance practices of many institutions."

 

Justice McClellan paid tribute to the child abuse survivors who shared their stories with the inquiry, saying they have helped the commission what should be done to make Australian institutions safer in the future.

Their personal stories had a profound impact on the commissioners and commission staff, he said.

More than 4000 individual institutions have been reported to the royal commission as places where abuse occurred, with tens of thousands of victims.

 

Justice McClellan said the number of children who are sexually abused in family settings or other circumstances far exceeds those abused in institutions.

"The sexual abuse of any child is intolerable in a civilised society.

"It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are being abused.

"We must each resolve that we should do what we can to protect them.

"The tragic impact of abuse for individuals, and, through them, our entire society, demands nothing less."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten attended the final sitting with both acknowledging the courage of survivors.

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The largest Royal Commission in Australia's history to conclude tomorrow
The largest Royal Commission in Australia's history to conclude tomorrow

"In terms of the royal commission, the fact that eight thousand people had private discussions and talking about their stories, the fact that literally hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions are now underway," Mr Shorten said.

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Malcolm Turnbull says the government will review the recommendations from the royal commission into child abuse.
Malcolm Turnbull says the government will review the recommendations from the royal commission into child abuse.

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Bill Shorten thanks Julia Gillard for starting the royal commission.
Bill Shorten thanks Julia Gillard for starting the royal commission.

"The tens of thousands of people involved in this process speaks volumes for what is as the royal commissioner described it, a national tragedy, a national shame."

The royal commission released 1,054 'Message to Australia' cards from the brave people that told their story to the commission.

The messages will be displayed at the National Library of Australia and remain as a tribute to survivors for their courage coming forward.

"All I ask of the Royal Commission is that all who had the courage of sharing their living hell, will at last be believed. I thank the Commissioners and staff for their compassion," one read.

'Message to Australia' from those who told their story to the Royal Commission.
'Message to Australia' from those who told their story to the Royal Commission.
Royal Commission

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Jenny Macklin holds back tears following final sitting day of child abuse royal commission.
Jenny Macklin holds back tears following final sitting day of child abuse royal commission.

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