The chair of Australia’s child sexual abuse royal commission, Justice Peter McClellan, has delivered his final address before a room of hundreds of survivors and advocates, telling them: “The sexual abuse of children is not just a problem of the past.”
“The failure to protect children has not been limited to institutions providing services to children,” McClellan told attendees. “Some of our most important state instrumentalities have failed. Police often refused to believe children. They refused to investigate their complaints of abuse. Many children who had attempted to escape abuse were returned to unsafe institutions by police.”
The greatest number of abusers worked in Catholic institutions, he said. Power afforded to leaders and the trust placed in them by parents and other staff, and a desire to protect institutional reputations allowed and facilitated the sexual abuse of children. Aggressive lawyers were engaged by institutions to silence them, he said.
After the hearing, Francis Sullivan, head of the Catholic church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, expressed his disappointment in the Catholic church. No senior church figures attended.