Scouts Australia apologize to victims of sexual abuse

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Scouts Australia apologized on Friday to victims of sexual abuse in its organization after an official inquiry found widespread abuse in religious and state-run institutions.

The apology came in response to a five-year, government-appointed inquiry into child sexual abuse that delved into more than 8,000 cases of sexual misconduct.

“We failed you, and we apologize for the pain that this has caused,” Scouts chief commissioner Phil Harrison said in a video message.

“It’s a genuine and heartfelt admission that for some young people, their time in Scouting was a negative experience, and we are truly sorry for this,” said Harrison.

Scouts Australia has more than 54,000 members under 18 years old.

The inquiry did not reveal the numbers of children harmed by Scouts Australia workers, but it heard evidence that a former scout leader in New South Wales state indecently assaulted two boys in the 1990s. He was convicted of the offences in 2013.

As well as offering an apology, Scouts Australia said it will adopt all recommendations from the inquiry, unlike the Catholic Church in Australia which said in August it would oppose a recommendation that priests be forced to report child abuse when they learn about it in confessional.

The Catholic Church has apologized to abuse victims and paid A$276 million ($276.00 million) in compensation to thousands of child abuse victims since 1980, the inquiry heard.

The Australian government this year established a redress scheme that offers abuse victims up to A$150,000.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is scheduled to deliver a rare national apology to abuse victims on behalf of the government later this month.

In 2008, then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to members of the “Stolen Generation” of indigenous Australians, who were forcibly taken from their families and communities when they were young under assimilation policies.

($1 = 1.4148 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry