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Royal Commission Case 21: Apology Extract

Extract 02/12/2014 (104)

MR KERNAGHAN: May it please your Honour and

39 Commissioner Milroy, my name is Aaron Kernaghan, and I act

40 on behalf of the Mangrove Mountain ashram and the Rocklyn

41 ashram, as well as others related to those organisations.


43 My clients have instructed me that they wish to, on

44 this occasion, honour all survivors of abuse and, in

45 particular, to accord sensitivity and respect to them as

46 they come here to give voice to their histories. My

47 clients have reflected at great length upon the reports of

1 abuse that have already been set down in writing in the

2 form of statements from the many witnesses who have come

3 forward to this Commission.


5 Those statements have been met with distress and deep

6 despair on the part of those who are responsible for the

7 ashram today at the horrifying and previously unheard

8 claims recorded in those documents, as well as claims

9 previously known. That is accepted and acknowledged to be

10 of little consequence when compared to the profound pain

11 experienced by those whose story it is to tell.


13 My clients have reflected in particular on the

14 mistreatment of all children at any time and by anyone in

15 the history of the ashram and the movement that it is

16 a part of. That abuse to them represents the most

17 appalling and disgraceful chapter in the organisation's

18 history, and my clients wish it be known to all that they

19 understand it as such.


21 True it is that the understanding my clients have

22 reached may have come far too late to give any form of

23 solace or resolution to those who have survived the abuse.

24 It is also true that some of that understanding is as a

25 result of this Commission and the very case study we are

26 here for.


28 However, most of that understanding has come from the

29 survivors who, empowered by this Commission, have come

30 forward to be heard and to report experiences with

31 a clarity and forcefulness that has perhaps been impossible

32 to them before now, no doubt in part due to the way in

33 which they have been treated by the ashram.


35 It is in those circumstances that my clients have come

36 to learn much that is profoundly wrong about its past, and

37 even more about the wishes of the survivors and their

38 families, and the hurt that they have to report in the

39 present.


41 My clients, in this year, have committed themselves to

42 their first real steps towards any form of accountability

43 or reconciliation. They recognise that those steps have

44 been limited in nature and that they are flawed by the

45 necessarily early stage of those efforts. They hope that

46 there is an opportunity to continue to develop those

47 efforts through improvement and expansion with the wisdom

1 that can be received from this Royal Commission and the

2 hearing of the evidence that will be given by so many

3 survivors.


5 However, my clients also recognise that those first

6 steps may seem trivial or even pathetic to many, and it is

7 a case of too little too late. My clients accept that

8 judgment and say that in the days that follow, as evidence

9 falls that condemns and shames the ashram and many of its

10 people, the ashram will continue to do whatever it can to

11 redress and respect all survivors of abuse.


13 My clients begin this stage of that effort in two

14 ways: firstly, by seeking earnestly the findings and

15 recommendations of this Commission and providing meaningful

16 cooperation with its efforts; and, secondly, perhaps most

17 importantly, by providing the following statement which

18 I am instructed to make on behalf of my client.


20 We apologise for the failures of the

21 Ashram, its people and its leaders,

22 throughout its history and to the present

23 day.


25 We recognise and acknowledge that there has

26 been child abuse in our history and that it

27 has inflicted profound grief and suffering

28 upon vulnerable children.


30 We apologise, especially, for the acts of

31 sexual abuse committed by those within our

32 movement who victimised children by

33 claiming authority over them or who, in any

34 way, used the principles that we believe in

35 to harm innocent people.


37 It was profoundly wrong and it is

38 a disgraceful reflection upon our

39 organisation historically and to the

40 present time.


42 To date the response of our organisation

43 has focused on rectifying the systems,

44 policies and procedures that allowed such

45 abuse to take place. We recognise now that

46 we have failed to address the hurt, the

47 shame and the harm that has been the

1 ongoing effect of the abuse. Until this

2 year we did not fully understand the impact

3 that the abuse has had on the victims,

4 their families and indeed the whole

5 organisation. By failing to respond to all

6 who have been affected by this abuse, in

7 particular the victims and their families,

8 we understand that we have added to the

9 original harm that occurred. For this we

10 are sincerely sorry and ask for their

11 forgiveness.


13 Finally, this is a turning point in the

14 culture of our organisation and one that

15 has been made possible by the strength and

16 courage of the survivors in telling their

17 stories and by the Royal Commission and

18 this very Case Study. We recognise the

19 need to be accountable and we will do what

20 wecantobeso.


22 We recognise that some may not believe our

23 sincerity or doubt our intentions. For any

24 role that we have played in causing such

25 a loss of optimism, we also say that we are

26 very sorry.


28 It is true that the Ashram today is a very

29 different organisation to what it was at

30 the time that the abuse occurred. That

31 does not in any way change nor reduce our

32 responsibility to act consistently with our

33 beliefs and our principles and to seek

34 redress for those who it has caused to

35 suffer.


37 We do not know how best to interact with

38 survivors, some of whom have not wished to

39 interact with us. We have attempted

40 reconciliation and have often made mistakes

41 and errors of judgment in those efforts.

42 We are trying and hope to continue to try

43 to play a role, for anyone who is willing

44 to have us.


46 But, we wish to be clear: for the abuse of

47 our innocents, our most vulnerable members

1 of our society, our children, we say sorry. 2

3 To their mothers and their fathers, their

4 brothers and their sisters, we say sorry.


6 For all that you have gone through, we are

7 deeply sorry. We respect your survival,

8 your strength, your individuality and your

9 history.


11 We work toward a future of responsibility

12 and integrity.


14 We seek to introduce the right process, the

15 correct procedures and the honest conduct

16 of an organisation that is modern and

17 informed by expertise and its own history.


19 We seek out the counsel of independent

20 experts to help us to be correct and

21 contemporary in our approach and to ensure

22 that what has happened never happens again.


24 None of that changes what the

25 responsibilities are that exist nor what

26 has happened.


28 Most importantly, none of that changes our

29 sense of deep and persistent sadness at

30 what has occurred.


32 We are and shall always be sorry.


34 End of quote. May it please your Honour and Commissioner.


36 THE PRESIDING MEMBER: Thank you, Mr Kernaghan.


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