Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia

8 April 2013





In November 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a national Royal Commission would be established to inquire into how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. The first public hearings opened in Melbourne on 3 April.

“Any instance of child abuse is a vile and evil thing. Australians know that, and Australians know from the revelations that they’ve read in recent weeks that too many children have suffered child abuse,” Julia Gillard said.

“They have also seen other adults let them down.They’ve not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser, but other adults that could have acted to assist them have failed to do so.

“I believe in these circumstances that it’s appropriate for there to be a national response through a Royal Commission.

“This I hope will help the healing, but I specifically hope that its recommendations will help us ensure that this never ever happens again.”

The Royal Commission will investigate where systems have failed to protect children and make recommendations to improve laws, policies and practices to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in institutions. It will look at private, public or non-government organisations which are, or have previously been, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care, and religious organisations.

Governor-General, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, officially appointed a six-member Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on 11 January 2013.The scope and Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission were also announced http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/LettersPatent/Pages/default.aspx

The Honorable Justice Peter McClellan AM has been appointed Chair of the Commission.Justice McClellan is supported by a further five commissioners:

  • Mr Robert Atkinson, former Queensland Police Commissioner
  • Justice JenniferCoate,Judge of the Family Court of Australia
  • Robert Fitzgerald,Commissioner of the NSW Productivity Commission
  • Professor Helen Milroy,leading child psychiatrist and Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at the University of Western Australia
  • Andrew Murray,former Western Australia Senator

Together, these commissioners will be able to draw upon experience from law enforcement, legislation, mental health, children’s rights and disadvantage.

All commissioners have been appointed for a period of three years and will begin their inquiry as soon as possible. The Royal Commission will prepare an interim report by 30 June 2014 and the final report is expected at the end of 2015.

The Government has received input from organisations associated with child abuse and neglect, including ACT for Kids, community and legal leaders, law enforcement, governments and religious organisations, to develop terms of reference for the Royal Commission.

It was announced that the commission will not be prosecutorial; it will seek to ‘shine a light’ on past cases and acknowledge the suffering endured by survivors and victims, which was hidden, ignored, or deniedfor so long. Specific details about the Royal Commission will be decided by the commissioners in the coming months.