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Australian oversight bodies inconsistent in protecting children from sexual abuse in institutions

10 April 2017

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a new research report that finds Australian oversight bodies have inconsistent scope and powers in protecting children from sexual abuse in institutions.

Professor Ben Mathews from the Queensland University of Technology was contracted by the Royal Commission to examine the strengths and weaknesses of existing regulatory and oversight bodies in protecting children from sexual abuse.

The research report, Oversight and regulatory mechanisms aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse: Understanding current evidence of efficacy, finds there are differences across jurisdictions in presence, nature, scope and powers. 

The oversight bodies examined included ombudsman’s offices, reportable conduct schemes, children’s commissions, community visitors schemes, child advocates and children’s guardians and crime and misconduct commissions. The report also examines regulatory systems across a range of sectors including non-government schools, early childhood and care, the medical sector and sport and recreation.

Aside from the largely similar ombudsman’s offices, the report finds differences in these bodies are due to their different parameters under state and territory legislation and some governments invest more heavily in some agencies than in others. As a result some of these bodies have features and resourcing that enable greater oversight of institutions in the context of child sexual abuse.

Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said according to this research Australian oversight bodies lack consistency when it comes to their powers to protect children from institutional sexual abuse.

“The research found that overall there is no clear picture of these oversight bodies having frequent or wide-ranging engagement concerning child sexual abuse in institutional contexts,” Mr Reed said.

Read the report.

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