The Honourable Scott Morrison
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to you to voice my disgust and disappointment at your government’s decision to hold a day of National Apology to all of the Victims identified in the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse.
I cannot help but think that this day is a poorly thought through idea and in fact is purely tokenistic exercise.
My name is Barry Heffernan, I am a Vietnam Veteran and I run the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed at Glenelg, South Australia.
Prime Minister we have run our Shed for seven years now and although we run the Shed as a Shed, being a group of Veterans, we have been dealing with many wide and varied issues affecting the Veteran Community.
One of these issues is the Abuse and many other humiliations endured by thousands of men and women as they served this country in the ADF.
While I agree and sympathise with the many young men and women who suffered dreadful abuses as children, it is the belief of the Veterans at our Shed, that your National Apology does not go anywhere far enough in recognising those who served and suffered, and like the children you are apologising to, still suffer in many ways and will for the rest of their lives.
Our Organisation was very much involved in the setting up of the original DART, and in the four years which that Task Force was operating we dealt with over 600 men and women who had suffered such abuses as rape, assault, bullying and other physical and psychological humiliations.
Sadly the hits just keep on coming.
Prime Minister you can say to me that the ADF were represented at the Royal Commission and I would reply that it was only in a small way.
That Commission identified only HMAS Leeuwin where young men at the ages of around 15 were exposed to some dreadful abuses and also another unit where similar abuses were meted out.
Prime Minister, those were just two units where young men and women were treated with such abuse.
It was the William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed which first identified the extent of ADF Abuse.
If you were really serious in trying to apologise to all of the Children and were keen to include those above “children’s ages”, and you needed to understand the extent of the dreadful treatment handed out by an out of control system, you could do a lot worse than to speak with former Senators Xenophon and Kakoschke- Moore.
These two Senators were the only ones who actually took an active role, in fact dealt with massive numbers of victims, who like all of the others will suffer the same long term tragedies experienced by the many ADF Victims. But this is your day and to concede political shortcomings at present is probably not on your agenda.
Prime Minister this is the other matter which galls me.
In all the times we were involved with the hundreds of Victims of ADF Abuse we dealt with, Australia wide, not once did we identify them on an age basis. They were both male and female.
Do you not think that an apology from the Nation on this day would be a good fit? Probably not.
In your apology, your government has identified an age basis, in other words your researchers have really not understood that there were and still are men and women of varying ages, still experiencing abuses in various forms within institutional areas.
While we at the William Kibby VC Veterans’ accept that the government is doing 'the right thing' in apologising to these abused children, we are very steadfast in our opinion that the Apology does not go anywhere near far enough and should cover all those, irrespective of age, who have suffered lifelong traumas at the hands of those who should have been leading the way.
Yesterday I was contacted by an official from DVA who asked me if I would like to attend this 'Apology'.
I thanked him and declined the offer because as I said to you earlier I believe it is both a tokenistic and poorly thought through exercise.
Maybe one day when you are in Adelaide, you may like to drop in and we can fill you in on more of the problems faced by the many current serving or former members of the ADF, but maybe not.
In closing let me say that I believe that you are man of Christian beliefs.
Let me try this one on you.
Jesus said something along the lines as this 'suffer the little children to come unto me'.
In your opinion the children should have their ages checked beforehand.
Prime Minister you still have time to change your Day, and make it for all who were recently children and those, like me, who are very former children.
The ball is in your court.
Barry Heffernan OAM
William Kibby VC Veterans’ Shed