Australia is coming to grips with a national crisis of incredible scope. A pair of studies completed in New South Wales and xx uncovered serious allegations of child abuse. Five years ago, the Australian Government committed to a Royal Commission to investigate the depth and issues surrounding child abuse.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said that through the work of the Royal Commission, the Australian public has learned about the multiple and persistent failings of institutions to keep children safe, the cultures of secrecy and cover-up, and the devastating affects child sexual abuse can have on an individual’s life.
“The Final Report tells the story of institutional child sexual abuse in Australia, and provides recommendations to shape a safer future for children,” Mr Reed said.”We have now completed our work. It’s up to governments and institutions to take the next steps and implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.”
The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was delivered to the Governor-General of Australia and released on Friday.
The Royal Commission’s Final Report comprises 17 volumes and includes a total of 189 new recommendations, many of which are aimed at making institutions safer for children.
Together with the three final reports already released – Criminal Justice, Redress and Civil Litigation and Working With Children Checks – Commissioners have made a total of 409 recommendations. Commissioners heard thousands of stories of child sexual abuse in institutions. They traveled to every state and territory to hold 57 public hearings and 8,013 private sessions. They have read 1,344 personal written accounts.
The Final Report contains 3,955 de-identified narratives based on survivors’ personal experiences of child sexual abuse told during private sessions and shared in written accounts.
The sexual and other abuse of children in institutions and the reluctance of the institutions involved to address the issue had been the subject of public and parliamentary discussion for a number of years.
The then Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, MP, announced the decision to establish a Royal Commission institutional responses to child sexual abuse on 12 November 2012.
There are recommendations designed to better protect children, especially a number of recommendations directed at the Roman Catholic Church. One is designed to require mandatory reporting, including allegations disclosed in the church’s confessional. This has some in the Catholic Church already expressing concern that a Priest who disclosed issued told to him in confession would lead to that Priest being excommunicated from the Church. Pope Francis has reportedly stated that the full report by the Royal Commission must be examined.
Critics of the Church suggest that there could well be a lot of footdragging by the Church on this issue. Those critics point to an investigation by the American newspaper the Boston Globe which uncovered years of child abuse which the report alleges was covered up by the Church. On December 16, 2017, the Associated Press reported, “Pope Francis is criticizing journalists who dredge up old scandals and sensationalize the news, saying it’s a “very serious sin” that hurts all involved. Francis, who plans to dedicate his upcoming annual communications message to “fake news,” told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies.”
Protecting children has been a focus of the Australian Royal Commission for the past five years.
The Australian Government provided the Royal Commission a total of $372.8 million over five years to complete its work, including the two-year extension. The Royal Commission’s total estimated expenditure is $342.3 million, meaning it is expected to complete its work under budget by just over $30 million.