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Published: 31 January 2017
Author: Amy Olver

Police apology to child sex abuse victims delayed

Victoria’s Police chief commissioner, Graham Ashton, has said it is likely that the police will issue an apology to survivors of institutional child sex abuse for failing to take seriously and act on complaints of abuse over many years. However, survivors will have to wait another 12 months for the apology until the release of the Royal Commission’s final report, due for release by 15 December this year.

The announcement followed a meeting of Australia’s police chiefs in September last year which was chaired by chief commissioner Ashton.

The confirmation that an apology is likely comes after considerable campaigning by care leaver’s advocate group Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) who protested outside Victoria Police headquarters calling for a national apology.

In our experience, it is not uncommon to hear from survivors that they attempted to notify police of abuse that was occurring in institutions and were turned away, not believed and returned to the same institution they complained about.

Certainly, survivors’ wardship records indicate police were aware of numerous children absconding from institutions and failed to follow up the reason for this excessive absconding. In some cases, even where investigations by police of allegations of abuse occurred, the denials of the abusers were believed at face value and the complaints of the child dismissed.

The apology from police is seen as an important step for many survivors and while the final report by the Royal Commission is likely to comment on police responses it is disappointing for many survivors that an apology will be delayed.