'I made it': What PM's national apology means to sexual abuse survivor
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'I made it': What PM's national apology means to sexual abuse survivor

Caddie Rees didn't think she would be alive in 2018.

The former NSW woman was suicidal for years after she says she was sexually abused by a Catholic priest in the 1980s, when she was aged between two and eight.

But on Monday, having rebuilt her life, she will walk into Parliament House and sit among hundreds of others who survived institutional child sexual abuse as Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers a national apology.

Caddie Rees outside Parliament House, where she will attend a national apology to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse on Monday.

Caddie Rees outside Parliament House, where she will attend a national apology to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse on Monday.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

"I just feel like I made it," Ms Rees said outside Parliament House, shortly after arriving from New Zealand, where she now lives.

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"I didn't think I would be alive at 41 from the stuff I had to recover from, but it's possible and the feeling is one of great satisfaction that I made it.

"I feel really honoured to be a small voice among all those people that have suffered something similar to me."

Ms Rees and her sister Karen will be among the 400 survivors of sexual abuse to attend the apology at Parliament House after receiving tickets in a national ballot that received 585 applications.

A further 400 tickets have been allocation to support provider organisations that were part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Ms Rees said while it was terrible to know so many other people experienced institutional sexual abuse, it would be a powerful moment to look around on Monday and see she and her sister were not alone.

She said the chance to tell her story during a royal commission hearing had been instrumental in helping her rebuild her life after feeling let down by the church's Towards Healing process, during which her alleged abuser denied any wrongdoing. He is no longer a priest.

"For me, it’s been a really positive experience, the royal commission," Ms Rees said.

"It's really been quite empowering.

"I can go for weeks now and not even think about my childhood. It doesn't come up."

Ms Rees was once fixated on revenge and said there was a time she would have "quite gladly smashed up a church", but she has refused to allow her experience as a child take away her spirituality.

She attends bible study sessions on Tuesdays and runs a prayer group on Thursdays at a community church near her new home in New Zealand.

"I’ve been able to separate what happened to me from my faith," Ms Rees said.

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"I don't have any animosity. I'm not fired up like I used to be."

The national apology will be televised live throughout Australia from 11am on Monday.

People who are not attending the apology at Parliament House are able to attend alternative viewings at Margaret Whitlam Pavilion in the National Arboretum, or at Yarramundi Cultural Centre.

The ACT government is providing free return buses to take attendees to both alternative venues. The buses will leave from Gungahlin, Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Woden and Civic, with pick-up times and locations listed on the government's website.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Blake Foden is a reporter at the Sunday Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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