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National Apology

On 22 October 2018, the former Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, delivered the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. On behalf of the Australian Government and all Australians, the former Prime Minister apologised to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, as well as their families, supporters and all those affected by abuse.

The National Apology acknowledged and apologised for the appalling abuse endured by vulnerable children, including current generations, by the very people who were supposed to care for them, leaving immeasurable and lasting damage. It is hoped that the National Apology has also raised awareness in the community about the lifelong impacts of child sexual abuse, to help protect children now and into the future.

The former Prime Minister delivered the formal National Apology, and the then Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, addressed guests in the Great Hall, after moving the National Apology in the House of Representatives.

After the motion of apology was moved, it was referred to the Federation Chamber to allow for further speakers to speak to the motion. On 25 October, the apology was returned to the House of Representatives from the Federation Chamber and was passed in the House of Representatives. The motion of apology was moved and passed in the Senate on 12 November 2018.

On 22 October 2019, the former Prime Minister delivered a speech in the House of Representatives on the first anniversary of the National Apology. The former Prime Minister honoured the strength and endurance of survivors, victims and those with lived experience of abuse. The former Prime Minister reminded us all that child safety is everyone's responsibility. Also on the first anniversary, the former Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, presented the signed parchment of the National Apology to Parliament House to be on display for visitors.

On 22 October 2020, the former Prime Minister delivered a speech in the House of Representatives on the second anniversary of the National Apology. He reminded all Australians of the need to protect our children, to provide justice to those who have suffered abuse and to take action to prevent future harm to children. The former Prime Minister also highlighted the progress made by the Australian Government during 2020 to address responses to child sexual abuse.

The third anniversary speech was delivered by the former Prime Minister on 21 October 2021.

The fourth anniversary speech was delivered by the Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, on 27 October 2022. Delivering the speech in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister emphasised the power of words, and how important the National Apology had been to break the silence surrounding institutional child sexual abuse. He recognised that the National Apology was a turning point and had become a catalyst for action. He also recognised progress to further the implementation of the Royal Commission's recommendations and maintain reform and improvement for years to come, including:

  • that more than 600 non-government organisations have signed up to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
  • the delivery of nearly 11,000 outcomes from 20,000 applications to the National Redress Scheme
  • the opportunity for the public to have their say on the priority work and vision of the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse via public consultation of the Centre’s draft 5 year strategy
  • a commitment by all state and territory governments in delivering the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021-2030.

National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Text

 

Today the Australian Government and this Parliament, on behalf of all Australians, unreservedly apologises to the victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

For too many years our eyes and hearts were closed to the truths we were told by children.

For too many years governments and institutions refused to acknowledge the darkness that lay within our community.

Today, we reckon with our past and commit to protect children now and into the future.

Today, we apologise for the pain, suffering and trauma inflicted upon victims and survivors as children, and for its profound and ongoing impact.

As children, you deserved care and protection. Instead, the very people and institutions entrusted with your care failed you. You suffered appalling physical and mental abuse, and endured horrific sexual crimes.

As fellow Australians, we apologise for this gross betrayal of trust and for the fact that organisations with power over children — schools; religious organisations; governments; orphanages; sports and social clubs; and charities — were left unchecked.

Today, we say we are sorry. Sorry that you were not protected, sorry that you were not listened to. We are sorry for refusing to trust the words of children, for not believing you.

As we say sorry, we also say we believe you. We say what happened was not your fault.

We are sorry that perpetrators of abuse were relocated and shielded rather than held to account, that records have been withheld and destroyed, and accountability avoided.

We are sorry that the justice and child welfare systems that should have protected you, were at times used to perpetrate yet more injustices against you.

We apologise for the lifelong impacts this abuse has had on your health, your relationships, and your ability to live life to its full potential.

We also extend this apology to your children, your parents, siblings, families, friends and supporters; all those who have helped carry the burden of your experiences and helped advocate for accountability.

We regret that your children’s lives have been changed and relationships have been broken by the enduring effects of abuse.

We hear the rage, despair and hurt of parents whose trust was betrayed along with your own.

We admit that we failed to protect the most vulnerable people in our society from those who abused their power. Our community believed people and institutions who did not deserve our trust, instead of believing the children who did.

Because of our inaction, too many victims are no longer with us to hear this apology. They did not live to see the justice they deserved. But today we remember them, and we extend this apology, along with our sincere sympathies, to their families, friends and supporters.

As we say sorry, we honour the courage of survivors and advocates who spoke out to expose sexual abuse in our institutions, often at great personal cost. Your voices saved lives. Your bravery has allowed us to uncover this dark chapter of our national life and understand what we must now do to protect children.

We also acknowledge the many victims and survivors who have not spoken of their abuse. Your suffering is no less anguished for your silence.

Together, as a Government, a Parliament and a community we must all play a role in the protection of children from abuse. We must accept our responsibility to keep our eyes and ears open and speak out to keep our children safe.

We must listen to children and believe what they tell us.

Child sexual abuse is a serious criminal act, and a violation of Australian law. Perpetrators must and will be held to account.

Today, we commit to take action, to build awareness in our community and strengthen our systems to promote children’s safety across Australia. We commit to ensuring that all of our institutions are child-safe.

We know that we must and will do better to protect all children in Australia from abuse and that our actions will give true and practical meaning to this apology.

Our children deserve nothing less.

The Hon Scott Morrison MP Prime Minister 22 October 2018

Publications

The National Apology was developed on the advice of an independent, survivor-focused Reference Group, and from consultations with communities throughout Australia from May to July 2018.

While not a specific recommendation of the Royal Commission, the National Apology is an important part of the government’s response to the Royal Commission.

On 22 October 2018, the motion of the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse was moved to the House of Representatives. After the motion of apology was moved, it was referred to the Federation Chamber to allow for further speakers to speak to the motion. On 25 October 2018, the apology was returned to the House of Representatives from the Federation Chamber and was passed in the House of Representatives.

Memorabilia

Victims and survivors and those personally affected by institutional child sexual abuse can request memorabilia of the National Apology, including a copy of the National Apology.

If you wish to order memorabilia, please email NationalOfficeforChildSafety@ag.gov.au with the following:

  • Full name
  • Delivery address
  • Number of copies of each item you would like to order:
    • National Apology event pack (includes bag, invitation, program, lanyard, copy of the National Apology, lapel pin, keyring, ribbon and commemorative DVD)
    • National Apology
    • Lapel Pin
    • Keyring
    • Ribbon
    • Commemorative DVD

The Reference Group consisted of a broad range of survivors and their representatives from across Australia.

Find out more (TROVE)

A national consultation process was undertaken throughout May to July 2018 by the Reference Group to reach out to survivors, their families and support people.

Find out more (TROVE)

Images from the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse event held on 22 October 2018 at Parliament House, Canberra.

Find out more (TROVE)

Components

If you or a child are in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000).

Information on reporting child safety concerns can be found on our Make a report page.

Get support

The information on this website may bring up strong feelings and questions for many people. There are many services available to assist you. A detailed list of support services is available on our Get support page.