In the end the prime minister had no other choice. Not that she was forced to act, but rather the growing evidence of abuse and the deafening calls for action meant a royal commission into institutional responses to allegations of child abuse in Australia was long overdue.
Why it has taken until now for a royal commission to be held in response to the sad and abhorrent abuse of children in religious orders and institutions is an unfortunate oversight. These matters are not yesterday’s news. The allegations and the evidence have been around for a long time.
To her credit though, the prime minister has opened the way for a far reaching inquiry which will cause considerable duress, particularly for the victims.
Sadly, the stories need to be told so justice can prevail and for the problems of the past to lead to a safer environment for vulnerable children.
For many of the victims this commission will help the healing, although the atrocities against them will never be forgotten in their lives.
The royal commission is a big decision by the prime minister. It will likely be a very long and costly process, but the national interest will be well served by uprooting the “vile and evil” abuse which for too long has avoided the highest level of scrutiny and the imposition of legal punishment on the perpetrators.
The reaction to the royal commission last night was swift and uniform. Victims, support groups, the legal profession, all sides of politics and community organisations have all welcomed the decision.
Tony Windsor has played his part in pressuring for a national inquiry. Other politicians have done likewise, as have outspoken groups which are desperate for action. The groundswell of support for action could not be ignored.
Mr Windsor offered some wise counsel about the commission last night: “It’s about giving the victims of child-sexual abuse access to justice and in so doing give them hope that they can have a future in which they can move on from the past. Whilst the victims’ lives have been severely impacted by such horrific experiences, the royal commission will help them deal with their ordeals in the knowledge that the perpetrators of such acts against them will be dealt with by the law. We as a society can’t shy away from the truth and as much as our institutions do great work in our community, we can’t sweep the actions of the perpetrators of these acts under the mat.”