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Meaningless Apology

September 8, 2011 permalink

Australian Michelle Stubbs, abused as a foster child in the 1980s, rebuffed Minister for Child Protection Robyn McSweeney by returning her letter of apology. For Canadians unfamiliar with cricket, let it through to the [goal]keeper means: to avoid, ignore, or sidestep a question one does not want to answer or an issue one does not want to address.



State abuse victim rejects Premier's apology

A WA MP has broken down on radio over allegations she mistreated a woman who was abused in state care.

Michelle Stubbs, who became a public spokeswoman for WA victims of state care abuse, today publicly embarrassed the state government by returning a letter of apology and claiming she was threatened, humiliated and tormented during the redress process for the abuse she suffered as a teenager in state care.

Ms Stubbs accused Minister for Child Protection Robyn McSweeney of asking her to "let this one go through to the keeper" when she complained about the government's decision to cut the maximum ex gratia payment from $80,000 to $45,000.

This afternoon Ms McSweeney admitted she made the comment but said it was in context and she in no way tried to "heavy" Ms Stubbs. She also denied she initatied the phone call in a bid to quieten Ms Stubbs.

"I returned her call on the morning that we announced the payment cut," Ms McSweeney told 6PR.

"She was very emotional ... and I must say so was I. It was very hard for me.

"I was telling her that I couldn't change the decision. The decision has been made by Cabinet."

Ms Stubbs' claims were raised in parliament this morning by the state Opposition. She said she moved to Far North Queensland in disgust with her home state.

Ms Stubbs was placed into state care shortly before her 13th birthday in 1981 after being sexually abused by her stepfather, who was later jailed for life for the offences.

During three years in care, she says she was forced to have unsupervised visits with her stepfather, which led her to regularly run away. During the times she was on Perth streets, she says she was twice again raped, which she did not report to police.

Ms Stubbs says she was then "locked up" in Nyandi, a maximum security facility for girls under 18, to prevent her from running away. She was kept there for more than two years despite not committing an offence.

Her claim also states she was further harmed when on five occasions she was punished by being forced to sit at a desk facing a wall for two days, without being allowed to talk, slouch or sleep.

Ms Stubbs, who is now aged in her 40s, accepted a $13,000 ex gratia payment under the Redress WA scheme introduced in acknowledgement of the state's neglect of abused victims.

However, in a letter sent to all WA Liberal MPs today, she said she only accepted the reduced payment to help cover the cost of a lawyer she had engaged before the maximum payment was cut.

She was disgusted at the government's decision to slash the maximum payment while announcing a $1 billion stadium.

"Unquestionably, I have never been so disgusted with a political decision," she said.

"To change the goal posts once the application period had closed was simply unfair, improper and totally ignorant of the costs (both financially and emotionally) so many applicants had already incurred during the process."

Ms Stubbs said when she asked Redress WA to explain what exactly they were apologising for she was distressed to learn that only the abuse during her first three months of being in care was accepted.

"I cannot begin to describe the utter distress that this caused me," her letter to the Liberal MPs says.

"To have spent years going through this process only to be dismissed in such a way.

"For me the process of going through the Redress WA scheme made me feel belittled, threatened, humiliated, blamed, ignored, isolated, scapegoated, rejected and tormented. Which, ironically, is exactly how the Redress WA Guidelines interpret emotional or psychological abuse."

Ms Stubbs, who was a Liberal Party state candidate at the 2005 election, said she quit the Liberal Party because of handling of the redress scheme.

Opposition leader Eric Ripper today tabled in parliament the letter of apology from Premier Colin Barnett and Ms McSweeney to Ms Stubbs.

The letter says the Premier and minister acknowledged "the difficult and painful process of sharing your story with the Redress WA process".

"On behalf of the state government, we extend to you our sincere apology," the letter says.

"While your experiences as a child in care can never be erased, we hope that the recognition of the abuse and neglect suffered during the time in care will play an important part in the healing process."

During an unsuccessful motion to condemn the government for its handling of the Redress WA scheme, Mr Ripper said it was unprecedented for a former member of the governing party to publicly repudiate a formal apology offered by the Premier.

"This is a very, very disturbing matter and it also reveals this government has been so hard-hearted and so mean spirited," he said.

"She's been further damaged, in my view, by what's happened, by the policy decision to slash the amount of payment and the way she was treated by Redress WA."

Mr Barnett said many victims of state care abuse had been mislead in believing that they could have received up to $80,000, which he said was never the case.

Almost 5000 victims had received ex gratia payments through Redress WA and about $120 million had been allocated to the scheme, he said.

"I stand by the decision that this government made and I stand by our commitment to spend [$120 million] on this program," he said.

Ms McSweeney said she understood exactly what child abuse victims experienced.

"My heart was breaking," she said of standing on the steps of Parliament House to face a protest by state child abuse victims and supporters.

"It's really awful for them and nothing I believe or say will take that awya and I wish I could for all those people, but I can't."

Source: Sydney Morning Herald