HEALING DAY: Robbie Gambley will be at the national apology for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
HEALING DAY: Robbie Gambley will be at the national apology for victims of institutional child sexual abuse. Marc Stapelberg

'Grand gesture': Abuse survivors granted access to House

A NORTHERN Rivers survivor of institutional child sex abuse will be among those at Canberra's Parliament House for a national apology ceremony today.

Casino man Robbie Gambley said he had been personally invited to the ceremony by Labor MP Tanya Plibersek.

Now, after asking for some to be allowed into the House of Representatives for the initial speeches, Mr Gambley and other VIPs have been granted that honour.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General's office said the major event in the Great Hall will still be held after Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten address the House of Representatives.

"It was always intended that the primary formal event be held in the Great Hall as it has the most capacity to seat survivors and supporters as irrespective of where the apology is delivered," she said.

"Arrangements for this are ongoing in consultation with the Speaker."

Before hearing the news, Mr Gambley told The Northern Star it would be "a grand gesture of healing" to allow some into the House of Representatives for the initial address.

"I think it's a good idea," Mr Gambley said.

"I'm pleased they decided to do that. The House of Reps is where bills are passed and laws are made.

"I think it'll have more significance and more meaning.

"If this apology is from the heart, if this government is really serious about apologising... we deserve to be treated in the highest respect.

"I hope Australia embraces us and the stigma of abuse can be put behind us now."

He said the ceremony would be emotional, but momentous, for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

"People who bravely went to the royal commission changed society for the better," Mr Gambley said.

"It's very important to me."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will address the House of Representatives at 11am, followed by a response from Bill Shorten.

The members of the public in the galleries will then be escorted to The Great Hall.

There, they will join the remainder of survivors gathered for the ceremony.

Mr Gambley said allowing people into the public galleries to witness the official apology would make the day all the more significant.

"The House of Representatives, that's the people's house," Mr Gambley said.

"Part of the ceremony will be in the House of Reps.

"(We) will then be escorted to the Great Hall (with) the Prime Minister and Mr Shorten ... will address them."

The spokeswoman for the Attorney-General's office said they had offered a ballot for those to be allowed into the public gallery.

"As interest in the ballot exceeded available seating, consideration has been given to offering people travelling independently to Canberra access to gallery seating, to ensure that as many people as possible across the country are given the chance to attend the apology event in Canberra," she said.

"As the apology is addressed to survivors, their families and supporters, reserved seating has been limited to those who have a personal connection to the event.

"Seating has been made available for special visitors in the House of Representatives galleries."

Mr Gambley was assaulted by his science teacher in Bonalbo as a child and has been a champion for abuse survivors.

He's involved with the Blue Knot Foundation and was vocal in calls for a national redress scheme.

His calls for a healing ceremony - which today's ceremony is the answer to - were met with a personal phone call from then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in February this year.

At the time, Mr Turnbull the process should be "a time of acknowledgement, a time of compassion, a time of love, a time of redress and reconciliation".

Under the national redress scheme, which came into effect in July, victims are eligible for up to $150,000 in compensation.



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