Abuse Survivors Protest Outside Turnbull's Office

05/02/2016 6:29 AM AEDT | Updated February 5, 2016 15:08
Fairfax

Supporters of people abused in Australian institutions say they have spoken with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the Federal Government's response to calls for a national independent redress scheme.

CLAN, which represents thousands of Care Leavers who suffered abuse in Australia's orphanages, children's homes and in foster care, staged a silent protest outside Mr Turnbull's Edgecliff electorate office on Friday afternoon.

Mr Turnbull is also a patron of CLAN.

"He listened to us," CLAN executive director Leonie Sheedy told The Huffington Post Australia.

Sheedy said shortly before the protest she spoke with Mr Turnbull via phone and voiced her concerns about what approach the government was taking to redress. She described the prime minister as an "ally."

"I said we didn't trust the state governments as our legal parents, they never cared about us in the orphanages or cared about us in the intervening years and we don't want to go back to them," she said.

Last week Attorney General George Brandis and Social Services minister Christian Porter released a joint statement supporting a "nationally consistent approach" to Redress for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse recommended in September the Federal Government set up a 10-year, $4.3 billion national redress scheme covering more than 65,000 people -- including apologies, counselling, apologies and payments ranging from $10,000 to $200,000.

Sheedy earlier said her organisation was bitterly disappointed by the government's "attempts to drag the process out and shift responsibility" onto state governments.

"They make us wait and wait and we are terrible waiters," Sheedy told the Huffington Post Australia.

"We have waited all our lives."

She said survivors needed a one-stop shop for national redress, with the government taking responsibility to ensure dignity and respect for all Care Leavers abused in institutions, not just those who suffered sexual abuse.

"We urge Prime Minister Turnbull, our patron, not to look the other way. We want to see some compassion from this government," she said.

"The Federal Government must show it is serious about delivering justice to some of Australia's most injured and marginalised people."

The Abbott government had previously rejected a national scheme as being too constitutionally complex.

In the joint statement, Brandis and Porter said the Commonwealth’s starting point was that government and non-government institutions should take essential responsibility for the wrongs committed under their care.

"The Commonwealth’s general view -- to be advised by the impending negotiations -- is that, while substantial responsibility for the operation of the redress process will reside with the jurisdiction in which the offending institution was or is located, it is essential all governments commit to core principles and processes for the assessment and payment of redress," the statement said.

"Accordingly, the Commonwealth will seek the cooperation of the States and Territories to develop a nationally consistent approach to redress through an agreed set of national principles."

Responses to the government's announcement have been mixed.

Lawyer representing victims of institutional sexual abuse Dr Judy Courtin told HuffPost Australia the government had a great opportunity to show true leadership.

"This is huge for survivors. It has to do with being acknowledged, acknowledging the truth and all of those things," she said.

"The longer this goes on, the more harm for victims and families.

"We don't want more suicides. The suicides are certainly continuing and this is a big part of that."

The Catholic Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan reportedly welcomed the government's announcement but said it was "disappointing" plans were not further advanced considering it had the redress recommendations for months.

"This is, at best, a tentative start to what has been a very long wait for child sexual abuse survivors," Mr Sullivan told Sky News.

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) also welcomed the government's announcement, amid some criticism over the time it took for the government to release its response.

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