Australia's prime minister has apologized to victims of child sexual abuse, saying the state had failed to protect them. The gesture follows a major inquiry that uncovered the alarming extent of crimes in institutions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has delivered an apology to survivors and victims of institutional child sex abuse.
"Today, Australia confronts a trauma, an abomination, hiding in plain sight for far too long," Morrison told parliament in an emotional televised speech on Monday.
"Today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe and to provide justice. Again, today, we say sorry. To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.
"As a nation, we failed them, we forsook them, and that will always be our shame."
Hundreds of survivors and their families gathered in Canberra and at special receptions around the country to witness the apology.
Inquiry uncovered shocking abuse
The apology was one of the recommendations of a five-year inquiry that revealed the shocking extent of child sex abuse at thousands of religious and state-run institutions over the past 90 years. In the majority of cases, the crimes were committed by clergy, orphanage supervisors and others in positions of power.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse examined more than 15,000 allegations of sexual misconduct and heard testimony from around 8,000 survivors. It was Australia's longest-running royal commission.
In his address before parliament, Morrison said he would open a national museum to raise awareness about the devastating impacts of child sexual abuse.
"We will work with survivor groups to ensure your stories are recorded, that your truth is told, that our nation does not turn from our shame, and that our nation will never forget the untold horrors you experienced," he said.
A number of institutions in Australia, including the Catholic Church and the Scouts, have issued their own apologies for failing to protect children in their care.
nm/cmk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)