Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers the national apology to sexual abuse survivors at the Parliament on Oct. 22, 2018.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers the national apology to sexual abuse survivors at the Parliament on Oct. 22, 2018. YouTube/ About the House: the official channel of the Australian House of Representatives

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered on Monday the national apology to survivors of sexual abuse. Addressing the victims of child sexual abuse at the Parliament, the PM acknowledged their hurt and suffering, apologising on behalf of the country for not listening to them.

On Monday, Mr Morrison apologised formally to the victims of child sexual abuse at the House of Representatives, which was attended by about 800 victims, their families and advocates of sexual abuse.

“Today, the Australian Government and this Parliament, on behalf of all Australians, unreservedly apologises to the victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse,” Morrison said in a statement on Monday.

“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.”

Morrison’s apology was followed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s. Both had asked for the victims’ forgiveness on behalf of all Australians, and both had moved politicians in the room to tears.

Survivors cry for Gillard

It was Julia Gillard whom the survivors wanted, however. The former prime minister has received thundering applause and standing ovation as she reappeared at the Parliament House for the national apology. It was she who ordered a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse during her administration in 2013. The commission had allowed hundreds of abuse crimes to be exposed.

When Shorten acknowledged Gillard’s presence, saying he was proud of the former Labor leader, Gillard received more applause and cheers. Audience members had asked her to get up on stage, which she did but only to speak briefly, thanking the survivors for sharing their stories.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, one man even went down on his knees to kiss her feet. She bent down to get him to stand up.

The man’s name was Frank, and he was a former student at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat. He was abused by Robert Claffey, one of the priests jailed for sexually abusing children.

“I am not a Labor person,” he told the publication. “But I always said if I ever see Julia Gillard, I will drop to my knees and kiss her feet.”

He continued, “Our unmarried, deliberately barren, atheist female prime minister, she has done more to protect the safety and welfare of children into the future than all the other prime ministers combined.”