Advocates for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse say they hope a national memorial set to be built in Canberra later this year will serve as a reminder for those in leadership roles to do more to protect children as the project reaches its next phase.
Design submissions were opened on April 12 as part of the launch of a national competition for the memorial, which would serve as a place of remembrance and honour, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
The initiative, which the federal government has committed $6.7 million towards, was a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Victim-turned-campaigner Damian De Marco said the importance of the memorial was "not just to look back at where we've been but also to keep reminding us that there's something about people in leadership roles who don't always protect those they're entrusted to protect, which is children".
"That's exactly why we need this memorial - we need to put child protection at the forefront rather than religious institutions," Mr De Marco said.
"This memorial is to help people in the future remember what their responsibilities are."
The former ambassador for national child protection agency Bravehearts was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2020 and named ACT's Local Hero in 2015 for his tireless advocacy work.
Bravehearts CEO Alison Geale said they were extremely pleased to see the government honour this recommendation from the royal commission.
"This is such a critical step in acknowledging both the trauma and horrific harms that has occurred in our Institutions and the incredible strength and bravery that child sexual abuse victims and survivors," Ms Geale said.
"As a nation, this is an important recognition of the sorrow felt for the horrendous experiences suffered by child sexual abuse victims and survivors everywhere.
"A place that may see many tears shed, but one of remembrance, where support and healing may be felt.
"We cannot underestimate the value in providing victims and survivors with the opportunity to have participated in consultations last year on the meaning and features of the memorial.
"In addition, it is encouraging to see that those making the decision on the final design will include those with lived experiences."
Construction on the memorial is expected to begin later this year ahead of completion next year.
Submission closes on May 21 and is opened to all Australian design professionals to lead collaborative teams, which may include architects, landscape architects, artists, sculptors, engineers, quantity surveyors and other interested parties including those with lived experience of institutional child sexual abuse.
The design process is being managed by the National Capital Authority (NCA).
Chaired by Peter McClellan AM QC, the jury will include a landscape architect, architect, artistic adviser, representative from the NCA and representatives from the National Memorial Advisory Group, which includes people with lived experience.
In March, Canberra Rape Crisis Centre's chief executive Chrystina Stanford joined victims of crime commissioner Heidi Yates to leading the charge to reform the ACT government's sexual assault program.
Both Ms Yates and Ms Stanford said reforms needed to go beyond the criminal justice system.
"We cannot continue to hold up the criminal justice system as the ideal justice response for survivors, because that is a promise we simply cannot fulfil," Ms Yates said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault: