Abuse survivors welcome national apology

PM Malcolm Turnbull will make an apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse this year.
PM Malcolm Turnbull will make an apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse this year.

Advocates for survivors of institutional child abuse have greeted news Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will make a national apology by the end of the year as an "extremely welcome" first step.

But they believe the country has many more big strides to take - including a national redress scheme - in order to truly show contrition for heinous crimes committed against vulnerable children.

Care Leavers Australasia Network chief executive Leonie Sheedy said every organisation backed by the states to care for children who suffered decades of abuse must be represented at the apology.

"They should apologise to the nation as well. They had a duty of care to us and they failed miserably," Ms Sheedy told AAP.

The prime minister on Thursday provided an update on the government's response to the royal commission report released in mid-December.

He told parliament a survivor-focused reference group would be appointed to advise on the form and content of the apology.

"As a nation, we must mark this occasion in a form that reflects the wishes of survivors and that affords them the dignity to which they were entitled as children, but which was denied to them by the very people who were tasked with their care," he said.

"Reading some of the witness statements, it is clear that being heard and being believed means so much to the survivors."

The government is rolling out a redress scheme for survivors from July 1, fulfilling a key recommendation of the child abuse royal commission.

Mr Turnbull urged the states, territories and non-government organisations not to delay signing up to the scheme, saying only maximum participation would allow it to be successful.

"We owe it to survivors not to squander this moment," he said.

He will discuss the scheme with state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments Meeting in Canberra on Friday.

Ms Sheedy said the prime minister must take a harder line with organisations dragging their feet signing onto the redress scheme.

"If they have not opted into national redress by April 1, then the prime minister needs to get serious and start charging them taxes," she said.

The Catholic Church, which had already promised to join the national redress scheme, urged the states and territories to act.

"Survivors of abuse have been waiting too long for the scheme to get up and running," said Francis Sullivan from the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council.

Constitutional issues around states and territories ceding powers to the federal government in order to run the national scheme have proven a major stumbling block.

Independent senator Derryn Hinch chairs the parliamentary committee overseeing the national response to the child abuse inquiry.

"If the states and the institutions haven't signed up in the next three weeks I will unload like you've never heard before," Senator Hinch said on Thursday.

"I'm looking at NSW and Victoria, especially."