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World: Australian Prime Minister to apologize to child sexual abuse survivors

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday that he would issue a formal apology to thousands of survivors of child se...

Australian prime minister to apologize to child sexual abuse survivors

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday that he would issue a formal apology to thousands of survivors of child sexual abuse that went on for decades at schools, religious organizations and other institutions.

The government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it had accepted most of the recommendations of a 2017 report by the Royal Commission, the country’s highest investigative body, including compensating victims and establishing a national office for child safety.

Government investigators found 4,444 victims of abuse and at least 1,880 suspected abusers between 1980 and 2015, most of them Catholic priests and religious brothers. The 2017 report said that 62 percent of the survivors who had been abused in a religious institution said it had happened in a Catholic institution.

“Now that we’ve uncovered the shocking truth, we must do everything in our power to honor the bravery of the thousands of people who came forward,” Turnbull said at a news conference in Canberra, the capital, on Wednesday.

Among the commission’s recommendations was a push to end mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. Another was to require priests and other religious leaders to alert the authorities if they learned of abuse during confession or a similarly privileged context.

The government said it had accepted 104 of the commission’s 122 recommendations addressed directly to the Commonwealth. It noted — but did not reject — the recommendations on celibacy and confessions but said they were matters to be decided by the Roman Catholic Church, other religious institutions and state governments.

Asked by reporters whether priests should reveal allegations learned in confession, Turnbull, himself a Catholic said, “the safety of children should always be put first.”

Turnbull is expected to issue a formal apology Oct. 22.

He said the commission had “revealed that for too long the reporting of this abuse was met with indifference and denial by the very adults and institutions who were supposed to protect them.”

“Your courage has hoped expose the scale of institutional child sexual abuse in our country,” he said to victims.

The commission also called for reparations to be paid to victims of sexual abuse. A redress plan is expected to be signed onto by all Australia’s states and territories and all major churches by the start of July. About 93 percent of abuse survivors would be eligible to apply for financial reparations, Turnbull said.

The reparations program has received a lukewarm response from some survivors, who said that the process of assessment unfairly “ranks” different experiences of abuse, and that the average payout of 75,000 Australian dollars, or about $57,000, is too low.

“Redress is not compensation,” Turnbull said. “However, it does acknowledge the hurt and harm survivors suffered, and it will ensure institutions take responsibility for the abuse that occurred on their watch by the people that worked for them.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

ADAM BAIDAWI © 2018 The New York Times

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