The ACT Government has committed to addressing every recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr saying the Government is looking to ensure “the failures of the past are not permitted to continue”.
Mr Barr said that 307 of the Royal Commission’s recommendations were applicable to the ACT and the Government has accepted or accepted in principle 290 recommendations, with 17 for further consultation as they will require more work.
He said the ACT was one of the first jurisdictions to join the National Redress Scheme and has already passed legislation to expand its reportable conduct scheme to include religious institutions.
The confessional will also be included in the scheme but it will be excluded until March next year to allow time for consultation because of the complexities involved.
In announcing the ACT Government’s response to the Royal Commission recommendations, Mr Barr praised the victims of child sexual abuse who had told their stories.
“It’s because of their bravery that these changes are now occurring.”
Mr Barr said that “child abuse is unacceptable and appalling”.
“All children and young people have a right to be safe and protected in their community, and to have a say in decisions that affect them,” he said.
“In light of the findings of the Royal Commission, it’s clear that organisations that work with children, whether they’re large or small, can no longer assume that child abuse won’t happen in their organisations.
“The ACT Government’s response to the Royal Commission is designed to change the status quo, to effect cultural change within organisations, and to ensure the failures of the past are not permitted to continue.”
ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said: “The ACT Government is absolutely committed to making sure that there is redress and justice for survivors and that there is a change of behaviour so that in all future circumstances children are protected”.
“We need to ensure that we are a society embedded in a culture that protects our most vulnerable people.”
According to the ACT Government, the ACT has been actively engaged with the Royal Commission and has already undertaken significant reforms.
These include removing time limitations on all claims for personal injury, both against institutions and individuals, and also strengthening criminal laws for prosecuting historic sex abuse cases, including by introducing a new offence for ongoing sexual abuse of a child and a new grooming offence.
The ACT has also adopted survivor-focused criminal laws like those recommended by the Royal Commission. The use of pre-recorded evidence by survivors in child sexual assault trials was introduced in 2008 and has since been expanded to all sexual assault and family violence matters.
The Royal Commission recommended all jurisdictions should pursue similar measures, which ensure that survivors are better supported to have a voice in the criminal process.
The ACT Government’s formal response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations is available at www.act.gov.au/childabuseroyalcommission.
Anyone in need of advice and support is encouraged to contact 1800 Respect, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the National Redress Information Line on 1800 146 713.