DENNIS Hayes doubts child sexual abuse victims will ever get over the horror.
The recent public scrutiny of institutionalised child sexual abuse, he said, would at least give them a degree of normality.
A big part of that process was the apology — four years ago tomorrow — from then prime minister Kevin Rudd to the “Forgotten Australians”.
These are the roughly 500,000 children who found themselves in orphanages or church-run or state homes between 1930 and 1970.
Mr Hayes does not want to reveal his own story, aside to say that growing up in 11 different institutions qualified him as one of “the forgotten”.
The apology, the federal government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Victorian Parliament’s inquiry into clergy child sexual abuse were important steps in helping victims, he said.
The Border resident said that had all been achieved in a few short years.
There was still a long way to go, he added.
Mr Hayes said the Victorian inquiry had “a big miss” by failing to cover the 17 government homes that had once housed children in the state.
“And it didn’t address compensation for the victims,” he said.
Nevertheless, Mr Hayes said Mr Rudd’s apology had been an important first step.
“The apology allowed us to come out and be recognised — that the abusers, neglect, abandonment and separation from our siblings all happened,” he said.
“It allowed us to start moving forward and the royal commission has allowed that to come under public scrutiny again.”
Mr Hayes said the Victorian inquiry had allowed more people to gain the confidence to “put these stories out there”.
“This helps them in their journey to healing.”
Mr Hayes said the victims would never get over what happened to them “but we can find ways to live with it better”.
“Perhaps the most important message from all — the apologies, the Victorian inquiry, the 2004 Senate report and the royal commission — is that we are no longer alone and isolated by the horrible events of our childhoods,” he said.
“These events have and are showing that such awful truths were the norm.”
Mr Hayes said the emotional scars could not be seen by others, as “we have learnt to hide them well to survive”.
“By being able to openly discuss these abuses of our childhood empowers us to a better understanding, and to move forward towards healing and self-growth to a better quality of life,” he said.
Victim support is being provided by the new Border Social Group, which meets monthly on the fourth Sunday.
The group can be contacted by phoning 0455 163 860.