After five years, 1,300 witness accounts, 57 public hearings and more than 8,000 personal stories from survivors the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse officially concluded on 14 December 2017. During the final session, Justice McClellan said the sexual abuse of children was not just a problem from the past, with children continuing to be abused in institutions today.
On 15 December 2017, the Royal Commission presented a Final Report covering its investigations over the past 5 years to the Governor-General. The Report is available online and comprises some 17 Volumes (the Executive Summary is 228 pages).
The Final Report makes recommendations that aim to support and inform Australian governments, institutions and the general public in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse in institutional contexts.
The report occupies many volumes and covers areas including:
- Understanding the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts;
- What was learnt from private sessions;
- Child safe institutions;
- Findings about institutions;
- Interventions and treatment for children with harmful sexual behaviours;
- The need for advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services;
- Redress and civil litigation;
- Criminal justice system.
Specific recommendations are made in respect to out of home care providers, schools, sports & community groups, detention environments and religious institutions.
One of the most controversial of the 189 recommendations in the Final Report is that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should request the Holy See to consider introducing voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy.
One of the more important legal recommendations is that the State and territory governments should introduce legislation to impose a non-delegable duty on certain institutions for institutional child sexual abuse
despite it being the deliberate criminal act of a person associated with the institution (prospective and not retrospective application).
The non-delegable duty would apply to institutions that operate the following facilities or provide the following services to children who are in the care, supervision or control of the institution in relation to the relevant facility or service:
a. residential facilities for children, including residential out-of-home care facilities and juvenile detention centres but not including foster care or kinship care;
b. day and boarding schools and early childhood education and care services, including long day care, family day care, outside school hours services and preschool programs;
c. disability services for children;
d. health services for children;
e. any other facility operated for profit which provides services for children that involve the facility having the care, supervision or control of children for a period of time but not including foster care or kinship care;
f. any facilities or services operated or provided by religious organisations, including activities or services provided by religious leaders, officers or personnel of religious organisations but not including foster care or kinship care.
The Final Report confirms the Royal Commission’s Redress and Civil Litigation report
which was tabled on 14 September 2015. On 26 October 2017 the Commonwealth government introduced a Bill to establish and operate a Commonwealth redress scheme to start in 2018 which largely follows the 2015 report recommendations. The maximum payout under the redress scheme is $150,000 (see our earlier blog).The redress scheme allows States and Territories and individual institutions to opt in to the redress scheme.
The impact of the report in terms of ongoing and future civil claims against institutions will be significant. It is largely up to the Australian and State Governments and institutions to decide what actions will be taken regarding the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
We will report in more detail once we have reviewed the Final Report in detail.
Post by Freida Stylianou