Sexual abuse survivors demand access to royal commission report

Melissa Davey
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse will sit for the final time on 14 December. Photograph: Jeremy Piper/AFP/Getty Images

With seven days until the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse delivers its final report and recommendations to the governor general, survivors and their advocates have called on the government to reveal if and when the report will be made public.

The report is the culmination of five years of work by the commission examining historical child sexual abuse in Australian institutions, including religious institutions, sporting clubs, orphanages and schools.

The Care Leavers Australasia Network chief executive, Leonie Sheedy, who advocates for survivors of abuse in foster care and government-run institutions, said she has been trying to get answers from the government for weeks about when survivors would be able to see the report.

“I feel my country doesn’t care,” Sheedy told Guardian Australia. “My country doesn’t care to inform survivors and care-leavers about the most significant event in our history. Where and when is this report going to be released to the public?”

The commission will sit for a final time next Thursday to publicly mark the conclusion of the inquiry, and the commission chair, Justice Peter McClellan, is expected to make a brief address. He willhand a commemorative book titled “Messages to Australia” to a representative from the National Library of Australia, which contains a collection of survivors’ experiences told in their own words. Survivors and advocates have been invited to attend. The commission’s final report will be delivered to the governor general on Friday 15 December.

Guardian Australia’s enquiries into if and when the report will be made public failed to yield any useful information.

Sheedy said Care Leavers Australasia Network was trying to organise buses to Canberra for survivors to witness the report being handed over. “But nobody will confirm it or tell us when it’s happening on Friday or when we will see the report ourselves.

“We have had a cake made and we are going to have a celebration once it’s delivered, bloody oath we are. We are going to celebrate this significant day in Australian history regardless,” she said.

Dr Judy Courtin, a lawyer who represents survivors of institutional abuse, said uncertainty around the release of the report risked creating “another round of trauma” for victims, survivors and their advocates.

“The government needs to announce what’s happening with this and when it will be made public,” she said.

“For victims and their families this report is central and critical to them. They have shared their stories, they have given their all, bared their souls and taken huge risks to make this royal commission happen and contribute to it. Victims and families deserve to be informed about this report above anyone else.”

A spokeswoman for the royal commission said she was unsure if the report would be released to the public, “as this is a matter for government”.

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