All states must follow ACT lead in legislating to include the confessional in mandatory reporting of child sex abuse

8 June 2018
Lawyers for abuse survivors have today called on all state Attorney Generals to act urgently in following the lead of the ACT in legislating tough new mandatory reporting requirements on child sex abuse that include the confessional.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said the ACT Legislative Assembly had done the right thing in ensuring there were no exemptions made for the confessional in introducing new mandatory reporting requirements.

“The Royal Commission made clear that admissions of abuse made in the confessional must be reported, and the ACT Assembly is to be commended for legislating to make this a reality despite the Catholic Church continuing to fiercely resist this,” Ms James said.

“In the ACT this week we again saw the Catholic Church having to be dragged to meet its obligations to protect children from sexual abuse, running ludicrous arguments against why the confessional should remain exempt from mandatory reporting requirements.

“The Catholic Church maintains that it acknowledges its shameful past and is committed to doing the right thing, but its continuing resistance to accept that the confessional must be included in mandatory reporting requirements shows that it still yet to learn that the safety of children must come before obligations to the Church.

“All other states must follow the lead of the ACT – if the ACT can act in taking on the Church to ensure tough laws are in place requiring mandatory reporting of child sex abuse then there is no reason that other states can’t do the same.

“State Attorney Generals are meeting today and we would urge them to use this opportunity for a frank discussion on ensuring that mandatory reporting measures, that include the confessional, are adopted across all states as a priority.

“The Catholic Church has an appalling record when it comes to the abuse of children and for states to accept that it can be relied upon to do the right thing and thus have the confessional exempted from any mandatory reporting requirements is unacceptable,” she said.

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