"...They should be honoured for their experience and given every support they need in order to participate fully in the community of which they are part..."
Speech Senator Gary Humphries on the Forgotten Australians Inquiry.
A ROYAL COMMISSION NEEDED
By KEZIA MESKANEN and Garry Harrison. 2006
Forgotten Australians advocates are calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse of children in institutional care.
Acting on recommendations of the 2004 Senate Committee Forgotten Australians report, in 2006 the Victorian State Government had apologised to all former wards of state between 1928 and 1992.
But many Forgotten Australians were angered when the apology failed to address compensation for those who have been physically and emotionally scarred from years of institutional state care.
Former ward of state, Garry, was amongst the hundreds of people gathered at Parliament House three years ago, to hear the apology. “Nowhere in the speech did they say there would be any long term restitution” says Garry.
Royal Commission Forgotten Australians 2004- Institutionalised Australian Children-1928-1992.
“The government wanted to be seen to be doing something, and three years on,they are doing nothing”.
Many Forgotten Australian advocates are calling for a commonwealth initiated Royal Commission into institutional abuse in order to address ongoing assistance and compensation for those affected by time spent in institutional state care.
Wayne Chamley, a member of Broken Rites and advocate of human rights, believes compensation and support needs to be addressed on a national level.
A redress board, commonwealth initiated Royal Commission and a national compensation scheme and fund is needed to provide Forgotten Australians with much needed ongoing support, said Chamley.
Caroline Carroll, a Forgotten Australian herself and an advocate at VANISH, believes that the failure to mention the “C” word, compensation, has upset many Forgotten Australians who are still dealing with the long lasting affects of being put through a system that failed to look after their welfare.
“They gave us lives but they didn’t give us any foundation that is why so many of us stumble and fall” Carroll said.
In Victoria the statute of limitations means that Forgotten Australians can make a claim up to six years after becoming aware of any institutional abuse.
According to Chamley the time restriction in the statute of limitations prevents many from taking civil action as full realisation of childhood abuse can occur years later and often “hits people like a train roaring down the tracks”.
He believes the statute of limitations also acts against former wards because any civil action taken by Forgotten Australians against the government would be defended by the Government “to the last gasp”, making it a long and difficult process for Forgotten Australians to undertake. Carroll and Chamley both point to an initiative established in Ireland that would be more beneficial to Forgotten Australians.
Royal Commission Forgotten Australians 2004- Institutionalised Australian Children-1928-1992
In 1999, following a Royal Commission, the Irish government acknowledged and apologised for the abuse of children in institution and implemented a strategy to provide financial compensation and ongoing support to these peoples and their families. Funding for this compensation scheme comes from the Irish government, with contributions from responsible religious bodies.
The Victorian Government has settled about 60 compensation claims totalling around $4.3 million since 1995.
The Bracks apology is just the first step in a long fight that VANISH and CLAN, who both received funding from the Bracks government, will continue, said Carroll. Three years on and still nothing since the apology from the Victorian State Government.
Forgotten Australians have waited so long for Redress, Justice or compensation, 2004 we had a senate inquiry into the abuse of children whilst under the care of the state, church and various other organisations.
39 recommendations handed down only a few have been met, it’s the ones that haven’t been met are the ones we were counting on, recommendation number 11 is possibly to many Forgotten Australians the most telling recommendation of them all;
8.223 That the Commonwealth Government seek a means to require all charitable and church-run institutions and out-of-home care facilities to open their files and premises and provide full cooperation to authorities to investigate the nature and extent within these institutions of criminal physical assault, including assault leading to death, and criminal sexual assault, and to establish and report on concealment of past criminal practices or of persons known, suspected or alleged to have committed crimes against children in their care, by the relevant authorities, charities and/or Church organisations; And if the requisite full cooperation is not received, and failing full access and investigation as required above being commenced within six months of this Report’s tabling, that the Commonwealth Government then, following consultation with state and territory governments, consider establishing a Royal Commission into State, charitable, and church-run institutions and out-of-home care during the last century, provided that the Royal Commission:
• be of a short duration not exceeding 18 months, and be designed to bring closure to this issue, as far as that is possible; and
• be narrowly conceived so as to focus within these institutions, on
• the nature and extent of criminal physical assault of children and young persons, including assault leading to death;
• criminal sexual assault of children and young persons;
• and any concealment of past criminal practices or of persons known, suspected or alleged to have committed crimes against children in their care, by the relevant State authorities, charities and/or Church organisations.
It’s this recommendation why we protest so much, why we still feel forgotten, it’s true to say there is a royal commission happening right now and has been going for 3 years however this is not the one we have been waiting for, this only covers one form of abuse recommendation 11 covers exactly what we are pursuing the senate inquiry did get what we were saying regarding CHILD ABUSE.
It’s now 12 years since recommendation 11 was handed down one thing this government can be assured of we are not going away.
It’s time our advocate groups stood up and not settle for second best we all want a Royal commission into institutional CHILD ABUSE anything else will not be seen as JUSTICE for the Forgotten Australians.