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Calls for change after national abuse tragedy

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The child abuse royal commission that exposed a national tragedy may be over, but victims and child protection advocates say much more needs to be done.

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Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan has warned children continue to be sexually abused in institutions around the country.

He said many institutions failed children over many decades while the child protection, criminal and civil justice systems let them down.

“There may be leaders and members of some institutions who resent the intrusion of the royal commission into their affairs,” McClellan said today, the final day of the commission’s sitting.

“However, if the problems we have identified are to be adequately addressed, changes must be made.

“There must be changes in the culture, structure and governance practices of many institutions.”

Victims and advocacy groups want immediate action on the five-year inquiry’s recommendations after its final report is handed over on Friday.

Survivor Joan Isaacs, who was abused by a Catholic priest, said the commission’s final report provides a roadmap for the future.

“The job of the commission is done, but the journey is not over,” she told reporters after the commission’s final sitting in Sydney.

“There is much to do.

“Survivors want justice from the institutions in which they were abused and from those who covered up and protected the abusers. We are owed that.”

The royal commission has already called for significant reforms in areas such as the criminal and civil systems, as well as measures to make institutions safe for children.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Federal Government had already acted on a national redress scheme and will consider the recommendations in its final report.

“As you’d expect we’ll read them carefully first,” he said.

“I expect there’ll be a lot of wisdom coming out of the royal commission.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who like Turnbull joined survivors and advocates in applauding the commission’s work, said governments and institutions should support its recommendations.

“We should show faith in the royal commissioners and the thousands of people who have evidence,” Mr Shorten said.

“I don’t believe that Australians will accept excuses from the parliament if we don’t fully embrace the royal commission.”

McClellan paid tribute to the abuse survivors who shared their stories with the inquiry, saying they have helped the commission identify what should be done to make Australian institutions safer in the future.

“The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused. They deserve our nation’s thanks.”

Abuse survivor Ray Leary urged other victims who have not spoken up to come forward, noting there are many perpetrators who are not prosecuted.

“Everyone’s listening now. No more tears for us. We’re survivors and we’re going to get it out there. They’re going to be dealt with.”

– AAP

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