Apology welcome, but wholehearted commitment to Royal Commission recommendations still missing

13 June 2018
Lawyers for abuse survivors have today welcomed the Federal Government’s latest update on implementing recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, but have urged all governments to adopt the entire suite of recommendations to ensure long-lasting reform for survivors.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal, Michelle James said today’s announcement that the Prime Minister will issue a formal apology to survivors of institutional child abuse is also welcome.

Ms James said today’s update from the Federal Government gave survivors much needed insight into the progress being made, and said all states and territories should also provide public updates on their responses to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

“Today’s update is welcome, as is the Federal Government’s commitment that it will act on most of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, including the introduction of a National Office for Child Safety which is of particular significance,” Ms James said.

“It’s also a great relief that the Government says it will develop a child safety framework and take the eminently sensible step of nationalising child safety checks.

“However, there are still 18 outstanding Royal Commission recommendations, including new criminal laws to punish those who fail to protect children, and we continue to urge the Federal Government to act on these," Ms James said.

“While we acknowledge the Prime Minister says he hasn’t rejected these recommendations yet, it is important that these outstanding recommendations are not delayed.

“Clearly, it’s critical that all the recommendations made by the Royal Commission are acted on – it is not enough to only act on some as these recommendations are designed to work together to ensure long-lasting reform for survivors.

“We also cannot forget that the recommendations are derived in part from the harrowing testimony of survivors who had as one of their key goals the desire to prevent such abuse ever occurring again,” Ms James said.

Ms James said it’s also imperative that the states and territories act quickly on all Royal Commission recommendations specific to their jurisdictions, including making the reporting of child sex abuse mandatory, even if it is revealed via the confessional.

“The debate has been had and it is clear – the safety of our children must be given the utmost priority.

“It is not good enough for governments to try to tweak the Royal Commission recommendations at the edges because that will only guarantee that the reforms will be half-successful.

“We’ve already seen the federal and state governments risk damaging the intent of the proposed national redress scheme by not ensuring it remained consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission - particularly in relation to the maximum amount of redress to be made available through the scheme.

“The Royal Commission recommendations were made after more than 4 years of evidence and testimony from survivors, and governments of all levels owe it to survivors to see these through.

“We would also urge the states to similarly provide an update on their own progress in implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

“While many states are making good progress, we need to be able to benchmark the extent of that progress and what action is most needed,” she said.

Ms James would also like the Federal Government to make it clear to non-government institutions that if they do not accept and begin to implement the Royal Commission recommendations, that they will risk losing their charitable status.

“These organisations have had more than enough time to show true remorse for the life-long harm caused to children under their care by demonstrating they are taking practical action on these recommendations.”

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