As the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse draws to an end, with the final sitting of the five year inquiry having taken place on 14 December, 2017, the Royal Commission handed over a commemorative book to the National Library of Australia entitled ‘Messages to Australia’. The volume will be permanently retained in the National Library of Australia, with a copy also held in each State and Territory Library, to ensure that these personal stories are never forgotten.
This book gave those who told their story to the Royal Commission an opportunity to share a message with the wider Australian public about their individual experience and more importantly their hopes for creating a safer future for children. The book contains notes, many of them handwritten, detailing some of the abuse, trauma and suffering experienced by survivors.
The Royal Commission held 8,013 private sessions and gathered over 1,000 written contributions. These 1,000 anonymous written contributions have now been published in this commemorative book, which will remain as a tribute to survivors and in particular their courage in coming forward to tell their often difficult stories, which will as a result of the work of the Royal Commission and it’s many reports, stand for all time as a public record of their experiences and the lessons they hope that can be learned from that.
Contributors were given editorial guidelines to help them prepare their message. These guidelines advised that messages containing identifying information or offensive language would be redacted or not published.
There are a number of re-occurring themes in the written contributions which are as follows:
- Attendance at a private session and/or a written contribution was the first time many of the survivors had told their story;
- Survivors felt validated and empowered after telling their stories and that it helped them heal;
- Survivors were grateful to the commissioners for listening to their stories with empathy and without judgment.
The Royal 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.”
Written by Sharon Moohan, partner at BLM.