The ACT Government will this week table amendments to the Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT) to include religious institutions that provide pastoral care and religious instruction services in the Reportable Conduct Scheme, in line with recommendations from the child abuse Royal Commission.
The ACT’s Reportable Conduct Scheme requires organisations to report allegations or convictions of misconduct involving a child to the ACT Ombudsman, to ensure they are properly investigated and acted upon.
It is proposed that the changes commence from 1 July 2018.
Religious institutions are currently subject to the ACT’s Reportable Conduct Scheme when they’re providing school, childcare, health and out-of-home care services.
Submissions to the ACT Government on community views on how the Reportable Conduct Scheme ‘should be applied to religious organisations to promote child safety, and whether any further measures, monitoring or oversight were warranted’ closed on Friday 16 March.
One of the main issues addressed in the government’s response is a nine-month exclusion for information disclosed during a religious confession.
The ACT Chief Minister said this exclusion acknowledged the complexity of such an inclusion.
“This period allows time for discussions with other jurisdictions in a national context and ongoing consultation with key local stakeholders,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on 8 May.
The ACT Government consulted with a variety of religious organisations on their inclusion in the Reportable Conduct Scheme, so that they will have the information and resources they need to comply.
ACT Attorney-General, Gordon Ramsay, said, “Work continues, with the ACT Government on track to deliver our formal response to the Royal Commission in June 2018.”
The ACT Government’s response to the Royal Commission will address all the recommendations that relate to State and Territory jurisdictions, such as working with vulnerable people checks, child safe standards, further criminal justice reforms, and implementing the national Redress Scheme.
ACT Greens MLA, Caroline Le Couteur, said, “We welcome the Government’s efforts to put these protections in place after recent community consultation on this important issue.”
The work of the Royal Commission and the ACT Government’s response may bring up strong feelings and questions. There are many services and support groups available to assist. Some options for advice and support include 1800 Respect, Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the National Redress Information Line on 1800 146 713.
Do you think there should be a nine-month exclusion for information disclosed during a religious confession in the ACT’s Reportable Conduct Scheme?