Australia child abuse inquiry: Messages from survivors

By Frances Mao
BBC News, Sydney

Published
image sourceROYAL COMMISSION INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Harrowing stories from survivors shaped a landmark Australian inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The royal commission held more than 8,000 private sessions with victims and gathered about 1,300 written accounts.

After revealing their experiences, survivors were invited to write about the process of coming forward.

More than 1,000 anonymous contributions were released in a book on Thursday to mark the official end of the five-year inquiry.

The book, titled "Message to Australia", was described by one commission lawyer as "too heavy to lift".

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, set up in 2013, investigated allegations of sexual and physical abuse across dozens of institutions in Australia, including schools, sports clubs and religious organisations.

image sourceROYAL COMMISSION INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

The book contains notes, many of them handwritten, speaking about some of the trauma and suffering experienced by victims.

But the dominant themes are of relief and gratitude from survivors who describe feeling like the process had given them a voice.

Over and over, the messages express thanks to the commissioners for listening to stories of abuse with empathy and without judgement.

image sourceROYAL COMMISSION INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
image sourceROYAL COMMISSION INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Many messages detail how the process inspired new feelings of validation, empowerment and freedom. Others say the experience helped them heal.

For many, it was the first time they had told their story, the commissioners said.

On Thursday, commission chair Justice Peter McClellan thanked the survivors for telling their stories.

"The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused," he said.

"They deserve our nation's thanks."

image sourceROYAL COMMISSION INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

The book will be held in the National Library of Australia as well as state and territory libraries.

The royal commission held hearings both in private and public and made 44 separate reports to the government.

The inquiry's final report will be handed to Australia's governor-general on Friday.

Related Topics

More on this story