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Call to action on Aboriginal child abuse revelations

A leading national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander foundation is concerned meaningful action will not follow the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Healing Foundation said the effects of institutional child sexual abuse were overwhelming, with more than 14 per cent of respondents to the Royal Commission coming from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The organisation released a cultural framework to drive healing responses and ensure action on recommendations made by the royal commission.

The Healing Foundation partners with communities to heal trauma caused by the widespread and deliberate disruption of populations, cultures and languages over 230 years, including the forced removal of children from their families.

The release of the framework coincides with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s apology to abuse survivors and aims to address the inaction that followed the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report, which outlined 54 recommendations to redress the impact of removal policies and tackle ongoing trauma, most remaining unresolved.

The Healing Foundation chief executive Richard Weston said that while an apology was welcome and seen as a good first step, the inaction from the Bringing Them Home report necessitates a direct response.

“This report documents a cultural framework for addressing child sexual abuse and protecting our children now and into the future because we know the legacy of trauma is not just in the past,” he said.

VideoPM Scott Morrison today said sorry to sexual abuse victims on behalf of the Nation.

“Community capacity to overcome the challenges of colonisation in general, and sexual abuse in particular, has been severely diminished due to the breakdown of cultural structures and processes that previously prevented harm.”

The royal commission made a number of recommendations in relation to advocacy, support and treatment services for survivors, including providing access to tailored treatment and support services for as long as necessary, along with funding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches as an ongoing, integral part of therapeutic responses.

“The way forward is clear,” Mr Weston said.

“However, it requires long-term commitment from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations, the broader Australian community and mainstream organisations and collaboration between State and Federal governments.”

Kimberley Community Legal Services manager Chuck Berger welcomed the apology by the Prime Minister and hoped this would continue momentum towards healing for survivors.

“The National Redress Scheme is now open and survivors can apply for compensation, counselling and a response from the perpetrator institution,” he said.

“WA hasn’t yet passed legislation referring powers to the Commonwealth, but that is expected to occur later this year or early in 2019.

“In the meantime, WA residents can still apply, but a decision won’t be made until the WA legislation goes through.”

Mr Berger said people could apply for up to $150,000 in compensation under the scheme if they were a victim of institutional child sexual abuse.

KCLS has submitted a tender to provide intensive non-legal support to survivors and is hoping for a positive decision in the coming weeks.

KCLS is able to assist with legal advice and representation for anybody who has suffered abuse, including helping people apply to the National Redress Scheme, and also offer financial counselling and family violence support services.

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