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Royal commission overdue

Briefs

Cite as: March 2013 87 (3) LIJ, p.10

The LIV has welcomed the establishment of an “overdue but far-reaching” federal royal commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse in religious groups, educational institutions and sporting, youth and state organisations.

The royal commission was established following revelations of how various organisations had responded to allegations of child abuse, including widespread practices of alleged abusers being moved from place to place rather than the nature of their abuse and crimes being dealt with and accusations that adults failed to act to stop ongoing child abuse.

The federal government has requested an interim report from the commission no later than 30 June 2014 and a final report by 31 December 2015.

The LIV had long-campaigned for the establishment of a royal commission and, in announcing its terms of reference on 11 January, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a prepared statement that the inquiry was needed to send a “very clear message” to child sex abuse survivors that the nation cared about their suffering.

“Today we are able to say we want your voice to be heard, even if you’ve felt for all of your life that no one’s listened to you,” Ms Gillard said.

“It is clear that too many children had been subject to sexual abuse in institutions and were not provided a safe childhood.”

LIV president-elect Geoff Bowyer said the LIV was pleased commissioners will be able to investigate any private, public or non-government organisation that is or was previously involved with children.

“It is important to ensure that this overdue, but far-reaching inquiry can reach out to all members of our society to ensure we institutionalise protection and early reporting of sexual abuse for our nation’s children,” Mr Bowyer said.

He said the LIV encouraged an open and transparent review and legislative solutions to “highlight existing shortcomings in reporting processes” and overcome generations of institutional reluctance and inertia.

Former NSW Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan will head the commission and be assisted by former Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson, former Victorian president of the Children’s Court Justice Jennifer Coate, Productivity Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, consultant psychiatrist Professor Helen Milroy and former Western Australia Democrat senator Andrew Murray.

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