Regular readers will know Voiceless Victim was chosen to represent victims at a morning tea with the Australian Prime Minster, Julia Gillard, at her gorgeous official Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, the day after the announcement of the terms of reference for our long awaited Royal Commission.
Since you could not all be there, the least I can do is share with you what I learned, and what I experienced.
We gathered at a nearby hotel to fill in consent forms and wait till the official party were ready to receive us.
Here was my first and only disappointment of this momentous day.
Some of those who most deserved to be there were not invited.
The list of those who should have been there is very long. I understand they could not invite everyone. But not inviting Chrissie and Anthony Foster, and their two surviving daughters Katie and Aimee, shows that those putting together the invitation list still have a lot to learn about who are the real contributors to this issue.
Some were invited who had no right to be there, who have worked in this area, but whose actions actively harm victims, and whose motives are less than pure. These self serving vultures were preening themselves smugly at being included in “the few” and sneering at “the many” who did not make the cut. Their salivating at the prospect of influence, media attention and generous funding to come their way was nauseating.
I have heard much about such opportunistic frauds and the harm they have done in Ireland from the amazing Irish defender of victims’ rights, Hanora Brennan.
It is very sad to see them rear their ugly heads in Australia even before our hard won Royal Commission has begun. But it is inevitable.
We must accept such creatures will appear, no matter what we do, and should we slay the current dragons they would simply make way for more of the same, inevitably attracted to the government gravy on offer, pushing the needs of victims aside in their desperate scramble to fill the gaping emotional holes in themselves.
But genuine victims and those genuinely working to help victims can take action to keep the focus on the needs of victims. I will address this topic specifically in a future post.
Back at Kirribilli House we were joined by representatives of the Forgotten Australians and the Stolen Generations. It was interesting to note that while some of us discussed our hopes for the success of the Royal Commission, Aboriginal representatives were slow to hope and wary of trusting government promises.
I don’t blame them.
Whatever we have suffered, they have suffered ten times worse. However much we have been lied to and betrayed by those in power, they have endured ten times the lies and betrayals. We must all remember they are our brothers and sisters in suffering, and especially deserving of truth, justice and healing. The real stuff, not the Catholic smokescreen, PR stunt, meaningless words with no action type.
After a security check we lined up to do the official greeting with Julia Gillard, and Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. We shook hands first with Jenny, then if she knew us she introduced us to Julia, or if she didn’t, we introduced ourselves.
Say your name, smile, shake hands, move on for the next person to take your place. Simple.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get my name out. I burst into tears, right in front of the waiting, and now delighted, media.
As I struggled to compose myself enough to croak out my name, I could see the media trying not to celebrate too obviously at the prospect of a “crying victim” shot with Julia.
Julia was gracious, patient and understanding.
I’m not sure if she could hear my name, but I think she heard the “thank you” that followed it.
I have done enough healing not to beat myself up about bursting into tears on meeting the Prime Minister. Or to let the prospect of photos of my distress being splattered around the media disturb me. I can shut those unhelpful emotions out.
What overwhelmed me was that after decades of our abuse being allowed to continue unhindered by those supposed to protect little children, and ignored by the whole country, suddenly the most powerful politician in Australia was putting investigating and taking action to stop the crimes against us right at the top of our national priorities, where it belongs.
As I explained when I emerged into the stunning harbourside gardens, they were good tears. Good because finally we were going to get the help we had always deserved. But being treated well upsets me. Never having experienced it, I don’t know how to handle it. I can handle being abused, dismissed, ignored, or treated as worthless, insignificant, beneath notice or a liar.
But to be treated as an innocent grievously harmed by cunning criminals, worthy of an investigation of the truth, of healing and of law reform to prevent similar crimes – well, like all of us, that is something I have been ruthlessly denied.
Something the Catholic church works tirelessly to prevent happening.
Something I find overwhelming.
It is something we are all going to have to get used to in 2013.
Julia spoke briefly to us as a group. She spoke without notes and her staff informed me it was unscripted, and her own words.
It was compassionate and well considered like her two terrific speeches to announce the Royal Commission itself and its Terms of Reference.
I spoke to many of the staffers and advisers surrounding Julia and Jenny and found them as a group to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about this issue, with a genuine commitment to delivering justice to victims and implementing real changes.
Jenny Macklin has a solid background of working in this area and was greeted with delight as an old friend by many of the Forgotten Australians and Stolen Australians. That is very encouraging.
I spoke to our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, one on one for some minutes, and spoke at length to her staffers. As far as is possible to gauge from such a short acquaintance, I feel confident Julia has a genuine commitment to and understanding of this issue, not just a political commitment.
I don’t have a lot of respect for politicians as a breed and politics as a whole. It attracts so many self seekers and influence peddlars, so many whose opinions and morals (or lack of them) are for sale that most aspirants with a genuine desire to improve our society fall away in disgust at what a dirty, filthy game it is, or are punished for not playing power games well enough.
But in recent months Julia has been starting to earn my respect. She gave the smirking royalist former seminarian mysogynist Tony (some of my best friends are women) Abbott what for and gave all Australian women hope that we can change the blokey, jokey, don’t get your knickers in a twist, vicious mysogyny that infects our culture.
Julia has also taken action on climate change, on making greedy mining companies contribute rather than just steal, on care of our disabled, on mental health and so many other issues. I don’t agree with everything she has done, and her tenuous hold on power means compromise, serious compromise is inevitable.
But unlike many of her predecessors and her opponent in this years’ election, she has tried to to take on important issues. Issues that could make this country a great place to raise children. Issues that are deserving of attention, not just attractive to voters.
One of the issues I raised with Julia at the morning tea was the need to overcome legal professional privilege, as this is one of the most likely scams catholic officials will use to hide the truth from the Royal Commission. Along with shredding documents and sending them to the Vatican.
Julia assured me that despite the ability to overcome legal professional privilege not being conferred automatically by the Royal Commissions Act, this Royal Commission would be able to use such power, if the Commissioners ask for it.
We need to ensure the Commissioners ask for this power, and for many other things.
Because the Royal Commission is now out of the hands of the politicians. I feel comfortable that the politicians, led by Julia Gillard, have done the best possible job under the circumstances.
Who would have thought that in the space of a few months we would have been given the Royal Commission we were told so many times would never happen, and it has been established as a genuine attempt to succeed in its stated aims.
But in this it is almost unique.
We are accustomed to those inquiries that are allowed to proceed suffering in their ability to uncover the truth as a result of the corrupt influence of catholic church officials and other powerful protectors of those who prey on children.
This is the first such inquiry not designed from the beginning to fail.
But it still can fail.
The Commissioners are now the ones who can deliver us justice or prevent its delivery.
It is up to all of us who have knowledge and experience of these terrible crimes to help them and to advise them in the delivery of truth, justice and healing, and the fight against the vested interests who will use all their wealth, power and influence to hide the truth, evade justice and deny us healing.
But even if the corrupt and the guilty snatch the truth from us, and the self serving steal the assistance meant for victims, they can never take away the fact that we were here.
A Royal Commission, a genuine desire for change, and victims honoured guests of the Prime Minister.
We have already, all of us, achieved great things, and we should all smile to ourselves and think, “They tried to stop this ever happening, and they failed.”
Stay safe everyone.