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I was there as abuse survivors got apology

I was there as abuse survivors got apology

Yesterday I was honoured to be amongst the 400 invited guests in the Great Hall of Parliament House Canberra to hear the National Apology to the Victims of Institutionalised Child Sexual Abuse.

Just getting here was a difficulty. I was told I could not attend because I was a so-called “religious” person. The distrust the victims have for religious institutions is palpable and the mere thought of somebody coming in that category was enough to cause a lot of hurt.

I persisted saying how for the past almost fifty years I have been taking their stories to the authorities and demanding action from people whose moral compass should have made them behave better.

I vividly remember working with one little Aboriginal girl who I later took to the Royal Commission. She had been repeatedly raped by the authorities and church people who were supposed to look after her. She believed she was being raped because of the colour of her skin and so would rub her body against stone walls trying to get the blackness off.

It was my involvement with kids like her that made me determined to be there. Ultimately the authorities agreed.

As the apology got underway I sat next to a survivor I knew. We held hands, hugged and cried together for the whole time and I could feel her body shudder at the memories.

Surprisingly, many of the victims did not respond well to Scott Morrison’s speech. Some even cat-called. Perhaps they thought he was too close to the churches? I personally felt the Prime Minister was treated unfairly as he was obviously moved and at times he seemed close to tears.

However, the hero of the day was definitely Julia Gillard. You might remember that she, as prime minster, ordered the Royal Commission. The survivors gave her a standing ovation.

There was a lot of pent up emotion in the room and every now and then it would spill out in spontaneous shouting. “What about abuse in the military?” one person kept shouting while another lamented the fact so many had died before they heard this apology. In the many familiar faces I noticed sitting in the room with me I vividly saw the sense of anger and betrayal they felt at the hands of those they were supposed to be able to trust.

Now though, it is time for the follow up. All the churches need to be part of the reparations scheme and make it easy for survivors to access. Unless they do so the apology will be meaningless.

(Image: SBS)


  1. your a good man Bill , it saddens me to see you painted with with the same brush as those religious authorities who abused and neglected children and protected the perpetrators. You are always on the side of the victim and the oppressed and you know their pain.

    The apology was very moving but as you correctly said will be meaningless unless real follow up action occurs.

    Keep fighting the good fight and reminding people like me how fortunate i am .

  2. I cannot find the words that I want to say to you have and alwYs will be my rock..where I draw strength yo continue living many times I wanted to give up and end my life.,but I was always drawn to you you and the wayside was and still is my spiritual connection that gets me through the day..and the though of causing my love one pain and leaving them behind keeps me going…being there for the apology has left me numb inside but I am happy I was there to hear the pm apologies but I’m remain sceptical on what actions the churches and institutions will undertake to help the victims and survivors..bill you are doing and amazing job being our voice not just here in Australia but overseas you are helping victims and children who are being abuse and …bless you always my friend…luv you xxxx mary

  3. I could say that Bill is a man of heart. I do not know much of his work in Australia, but I saw him helping refugees in the Northern France one year ago.


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