Speeches | May 23, 2018

National Redress Scheme For Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018 Second Reading

Victorian Parliament - 23 May 2018 - Ms KEALY - It is a privilege for me to make my contribution to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018. This is a bill that I feel very closely attached to. I would like to make acknowledgement of the forgotten Australians that I have met in my own electorate of Lowan, particularly those who have shared their story with me. Many of the stories are quite horrific, whether it be sexual abuse that was sustained during the time in institutional care or whether it be around physical abuse that was sustained during that time or verbal abuse. This for many of my local people has had a lifelong impact.

I do recall in particular one lady, who has since passed away and so will not benefit from any redress scheme which is implemented at a Victorian level or at a national level. This lovely lady felt the lifelong impact of some of the suffering that she underwent during her time in orphanages early in her life. This lovely lady would recount times when she could not even have a door fixed to her own bedroom because of the memories that that brought forward from her childhood. She also of course then had significant difficulties in adjusting to any situation where there was a fixed door with hinges, whether it was closed or open, so when she would go to hospital for care it was an entirely terrifying experience for her to even see a door with hinges, let alone for that time if the door did close. To think that somebody who was in their later years was still suffering at such a significant level — still had such mental trauma after all of that time — really shows the devastating impact that was put on some younger people during their early years many years ago.

I also heard from other locals who, while they did not have a fantastic time when they were in orphanages during their younger years, actually found that when they ended up in a foster family later on in life and settled in western Victoria and called it their home, while they were difficult conditions, they may have been doing things. I know there was one gentleman who told me that he was in a foster home, worked at the foster home, worked a 12‑hour day, milked six cows by hand and separated all the milk for cream — worked all day and then milked again at night — and was paid around one pound and some shillings a week for this for four and a half years. He still sees that as an enormous benefit in how he was able to live his life and become an independent man who still contributes very, very strongly to the community in my local area. So there are certainly people who have had horrific times in orphanages, but there are fortunately also people who really have found their own pathway through life. While they are still part of the forgotten Australians in my area, they do see that they have been able to work through some of those awful situations which occurred in their early life.

I would encourage anybody who is unaware of the forgotten Australians or of some of the abuse which did occur in institutional care many years ago and sometimes more recently to get in touch with Open Place and have a look at some of the documentation and stories that they have recorded over the years. Some of their stories are quite confronting, particularly the ones in recent years. While we would think that this is all something of a historic nature and would not be occurring now, it is not that long ago that some of these instances occurred and we cannot forget what occurred.

I think it is right that there should be a level of redress, and it is something that I have written to the government about on a number of occasions. I note that the Attorney‑General is in the chamber at the moment. I wrote to him back in 2016 about this exact matter — that we do need to make sure that we care for the people who were treated inappropriately during their time in institutional care over the years.

I also would like to note another local person who is in regular contact with my office and who has been an extremely strong advocate for the implementation of a redress scheme, and that is Mr Phillip Chalker. Phillip has been actively involved in the community and with the forgotten Australians for many, many years and has been a tireless advocate for a redress scheme. I am sure he will certainly welcome this bill being passed and of course the steps that are being made at the moment in relation to the creation of a national redress scheme.

I know the federal government have put some very strong steps in place, and this is currently a matter for negotiation. I do commend the federal government for taking those bold steps to ensure that although the wrongs of the past cannot be righted, at least there is some form of redress for those wrongs that have occurred in the past. I do not want to go into specific details of the bill. I know that many people will, but I do want to make sure that the people who will benefit from this redress scheme understand that there are many, many members of this chamber and there are many members of my local community and of Victoria who do deeply regret that any harm was caused in the past. We understand your story. You are not forgotten Australians. We understand exactly what you have been through and support you to this day. I commend the bill to the house.


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