Tzedek: national apology meaningless without action

October 22, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Child sexual abuse advocacy group Tzedek said today’s national apology to survivors of institutional sexual abuse is meaningless without action.

At the Tzedek meeting

Jewish community leaders, survivors of sexual abuse, a member of SECASA, a Police representative and others gathered with an air of expectation yet realism at this momentous government acceptance of community responsibility and undertaking to right wrongs.

The Prime Minister’s and Opposition leader’s speeches; both powerful, emotional and united in spirit said, ‘sorry’ and ‘we will right past wrongs’. A unique display of compassion and agreement across parliament.

Before the parliamentary speeches, the Jewish community leaders in the room spoke.

Tzedek CEO, Michelle Meyer welcomed community members to the apology screening. She said it was important to have broad community representation meeting with survivors for the event. Michelle said that apology, while important, was meaningless without action. This was a point made by several community speakers and by our political leaders. And while the apology was broadcast nationally it was acknowledged that by only addressing institutional abuse many other abuse survivors need recognition.

Michelle outlined Tzedek’s work including developing its culturally relevant education programs which are delivered to schools, synagogues and community organisations. This is being aided by Tzedek’s new Child Protection Policy Consultancy which is available to all community organisations. Tzedek also continues to provide its important work as a support and advocacy service to abuse survivors.

Anton Block, President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) highlighted their commitment to child safety following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The ECAJ formed a Child Protection committee which undertakes key initiatives. These include a recent letter to all Jewish organisations in Australia responsible for the care of children, seeking confirmation that they have in place child protection policies and processes for implementation. ECAJ also encouraged organisations to join the National Redress Scheme.

In a full statement he said: “The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, for itself and the Australian Jewish community, wholeheartedly endorses the national apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse that was made in the Federal parliament by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the call to action that followed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.  In particular, we acknowledge and join in the apology for the abuses that have occurred in Jewish institutions, the failure to heed the warning signs, the refusal to listen to complaints from children and their families, the failure to protect the children and the reprisal actions taken against those who exposed the wrongdoing.  It is a core part of our Jewish values that the life of the individual cannot be sacrificed to the interests or convenience of any institution, and it is a shocking truth that certain institutions that pride themselves on their Jewish ethos at times failed to operate by those values.

We must redouble our efforts to ensure that Jewish community organisations which have the care of children have adopted and implemented appropriate standards of child protection and are taking a preventative, proactive and participatory approach to child safety issues, so that the safety and wellbeing of children in each of their organisations is a paramount consideration in their policies and operations.  We must also continue to encourage Jewish community organisations which have had the care of children to join the National Redress Scheme.

There can be no higher priority than protecting the safety and well-being of our children.”

David Southwick, MLA for Caulfield acknowledged work by the Victorian Government in establishing their own inquiry before the federal royal commission. He also acknowledged the state government’s work in combatting family violence.

Rebecca Silk, President of Temple Beth Israel said that the Progressive Jewish movement is committed to providing a child safe environment. It’s not just the policies that are important for achieving this but ensuring that education and training provide a culture of child safety.

Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, from the Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand, said that the RCANZ was formed in 2015 in direct response to the Royal Commission. He said that replacing the previous orthodox rabbinical council gave a clear signal that members committed to change the way abuse and other issues are handled.

This was an opportunity to ensure that our ethical and moral code, as prescribed in Jewish teaching, is adhered to. Importantly, complaints are now heard by tribunals chaired by experienced legal practitioners, not clergy who contribute by providing information and advice.

Jodie Grant, a Restorative Engagement Facilitator for the Commonwealth Ombudsman emphasised the importance of apology for survivors of abuse. An apology is also critical for survivors’ families and friends.

When it came to the Prime Minister’s and Opposition leaders’ apologies the impact in the room was palpable. There were tears and supportive hugs and it was clear from the impact of the apologies on abuse survivors just how critical apology is. Everyone was emotionally affected by the occasion.

While the apology was a remarkable contribution two things are clear. ‘Sorry’ without action is not acceptable and that while this is a step in the right direction there will always be perpetrators that we need to guard against. And institutions must be held to account by taking the right action.

Michelle Meyer said: “Paradoxically, during the ABC TV broadcast of the apology, the news stream at the bottom of the screen continued to flag Malka Leifer’s bail appeal.”


2 Responses to “Tzedek: national apology meaningless without action”
  1. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

    Without very significant financial compensation being paid to all victims, public apologies are of only minor significance in the long term.

  2. Adrian Jackson says:

    Verbal apologies are useless. Gaol for offenders and those that covered up offences, like 20 years. A collective punishment for institutions is confiscation of funds and buildings. Hit the churches etc in their wallet. I think 10% of all Roman Catholic property should be confiscated for example.

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