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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.