DEVOID of media, free of security and with sincerity, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week privately told a grieving Griffith family, “I’m sorry”.
The words were bittersweet for the gathered Sweeney family, who lost their son and brother Mitchell to the Rudd Government’s failed “pink batts scheme” in February, 2010.
The family trekked to Melbourne on Friday for a personal meeting with Mr Rudd and minister for employment and workplace relations Bill Shorten at Treasury Place - the end to six long weeks of anticipation since the prime minister admitted he would apologise.
For Mitchell’s mother Wendy, shaking the hand of the man she holds responsible for her son’s death was a gut-wrenching occasion.
With her hands shaking and voice trembling, Mrs Sweeney read out a heartfelt letter to Mr Rudd - which he accepted with good grace.
“I was pleased he took the time to meet with us and issue his apology, which seemed genuine,” Mrs Sweeney said.
“The fact there was no media there showed it wasn’t just a political stunt, I think he actually wanted to do it.
“We’ve been hung up in the air for the last six weeks, it’s been terrible waiting.”
Mitchell was just 22 when he was killed on a Gold Coast work site, installing insulation for employer Titan Insulations.
A coronial inquest into his death was held in March this year.
Without the inquest, Mrs Sweeney felt Mr Rudd’s apology would not have been forthcoming.
“What would be nice now would be to also receive an apology from Mitchell’s employers,” she said.
“It takes a lot of guts to say sorry - is it admitting guilt? I don’t know.”
It has been a traumatic three years for the family but Mrs Sweeney hopes the meeting with Mr Rudd was one of the final steps in their harrowing journey.
“Now, we’ll just try to remember Mitchell for the happy-go-lucky boy that he was.”