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Beyond the Royal Commission

Volume 17, Beyond the Royal Commission describes the impacts and legacy of the Royal Commission and discusses monitoring and reporting on the implementation of our recommendations.

Summary

This volume describes the impact of the Royal Commission during its five-year life and the potential impact of our work beyond 2017.

There have been many responses by governments and institutions to the problems revealed by the Royal Commission.

The key recommendations of our Working With Children Checks report included: that state and territory governments amend their Working With Children Checks laws to implement the standards identified in the report, and to enable Working With Children Check clearances from other jurisdictions to be recognised and accepted; and that the Australian Government facilitate a national model for Working With Children Checks, including by establishing a centralised database.

State and territory governments have given in-principle support for a nationally consistent Working With Children Checks scheme. Some jurisdictions told us that they are, or will be, reviewing existing schemes in the light of our recommendations, and some states and territories have enacted legislation to implement our recommended standards.

In our Redress and civil litigation report, we recommended that the Australian Government establish a single national redress scheme, as the most effective structure for ensuring justice for survivors. We also made detailed recommendations about how the scheme should be operated.

On 4 November 2016, the federal Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Christian Porter MP, and the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, announced a national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. The scheme is to commence in 2018 and operate for 10 years, with provisions for review and extension.

There has also been implementation activity in relation to our recommendations concerning civil litigation. Some states and territories have introduced legislation to remove any limitation period for a claim for damages brought by a person where that claim is founded on personal injury resulting from sexual abuse of the person in an institutional context when the claimant is or was a child.

In relation to the duty of institutions, Victoria has legislated to reverse the onus of proof. In civil litigation, once it is proved that the sexual abuse occurred and was committed by an individual associated with a relevant institution, the breach of the duty of the institution to care for the child will be presumed unless the organisation proves that it took reasonable precautions to prevent the abuse.

Victoria has also legislated in relation to the identity of an appropriate institutional defendant. This legislation provides for an entity that is not capable in law of being sued to nominate a legal person that is capable of being sued as the appropriate defendant for the purposes of the claim.

The inquiry’s private sessions process, which included providing counselling and support to survivors, had a profound impact on many of those who took part. We were told in private sessions and in correspondence that followed that, were it not for the Royal Commission, some survivors would never have disclosed their experience of child sexual abuse. Of those survivors who discussed in a private session who they disclosed to, one in 10 (10.3 per cent) told us they disclosed for the first time to the Royal Commission. We also heard that for some survivors,engaging with the Royal Commission had encouraged them to seek redress and advocate for others affected by child sexual abuse. This in turn has contributed to increased demand for support services for victims and survivors. Our inquiry also had an impact in relation to police investigation of child sexual abuse offences.

The Royal Commission’s impact will depend primarily on the implementation of the recommendations made in this Final Report, as well as those made in our earlier reports. In this volume, we recommend how the implementation of recommendations should be monitored and reported on (see Recommendations 17.1 to 17.4).

Our work has advanced the knowledge and understanding of child sexual abuse from a research perspective. We put in place a number of strategies early in the life of the inquiry’s research program, with the expectation that the program would contribute to this previously underresearched area and provide a foundation for future research as well as evidence-based practice models.

The collection and publication of victim and survivor stories of institutional child sexual abuse has provided accounts of events that have remained largely hidden in our nation’s history. We hope that the act of sharing these narratives with the public will contribute to a better understanding of the profound impact of child sexual abuse and that survivors will feel validated, heard, encouraged and strengthened by their publication.

We recommend that the Australian Government host and maintain the Royal Commission website for the duration of the national redress scheme for victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse (Recommendation 17.5). At the conclusion of this period, the website will be archived by the National Library of Australia.

We have heard and considered survivor concerns about existing honours or memorials to alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse, and facilities dedicated to or named after perpetrators. In this volume we suggest ways of addressing these concerns. We consider that institutions should review their existing institutional honours, dedications and memorials to make sure that they do not honour perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Institutions should respond fully to requests from survivors in relation to such matters, including as part of providing appropriate redress.

We discuss the value of memorials that honour and recognise victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. Memorials can provide symbolic reparation and public recognition to victims and survivors in ways that can contribute to healing. There are precedents for funding memorials and oral history projects arising from previous inquiries and we discuss the views of some victims and survivors and advocacy groups in this regard. We recommend that the Australian Government commission a memorial (see Recommendation 17.6). We also consider oral history projects that have arisen from previous inquiries and suggest such a project to further record and document the life stories of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in an institutional context in Australia.

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