On 12th November, 2012 the Prime Minister announced a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia. This is a welcome announcement and we are pleased that the Prime Minister has taken the opportunity to set the scale and scope for the Royal Commission very broadly.
Royal Commissions have the capacity to create genuine change in Australian society. Over the last 30 years, we have seen the enduring impact on law, practice and thinking as a result of similar sorts of inquiries and Royal Commissions. For example the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Costigan Royal Commission, the HREOC Inquiry into the Stolen Generation and the NSW Wood Royal Commission into Police Corruption have all had profound impacts. This Royal Commission has the potential to create long term change too. It may finally provide justice for many people who were abused as children, but also presents a real opportunity for us as a country to finally recognise the importance children’s rights and the broad scale change needed in the way we value children and young people and respond to their needs.
The Terms of Reference are expected by the end of the year. It is important that the time is taken to give the Commission the Terms of Reference which will provide the scope to do this inquiry the right way. UnitingCare Burnside has always been very proactive in responding to the historical legacy of institutions and we will continue to do so.
Ex-Burnsider / Former Residents Reunion
Each year on the third Saturday in October, UnitingCare Burnside hosts a reunion for former residents of the original Burnside Homes for Children on Pennant Hills Road at North Parramatta. They are invited to morning tea, an official welcome in Sargood Hall and lunch on the lawns in front of Blairgowrie. Sir James Burns's former home, which is now a junior boarding house of The King's College, is open to them for the day as are many of the original buildings – the Burnside school, hospital, Son of Rock, Dunkeld, Airlie, Gowan Brae and the War Memorial Building. More than 100 former Burnsiders and their families attend.
The Burnside Museum which has professionally curated displays is open for the reunion and visits at other times may be booked by telephoning (02) 9768 6888.
In February 2007 an exhibition, We Were Burnie Kids, was opened at the Parramatta Heritage Centre and brought back a flood of memories for those who flocked to see it over a three-month period. Archival photographs, not seen for decades, were put on DVD, together with first-hand accounts from ex-Burnsiders, and a beautifully presented exhibition of memorabilia was on display. Copies of the DVD are available for $5 by telephoning (02) 9768 6888.
Read more about the Burnside museum.