The Victorian Government completed its parliamentary enquiry into sexual abuse in religious and other organisations. The final report and its recommendations are summarised here.
Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry Recommendations
These are the 15 recommendations of the Victorian Parliament’s inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations
Reform criminal law
Compulsory reporting to police – Legislative amendments to ensure that a person who fails to report or conceals criminal child abuse will be guilty of an offence.
A new child endangerment offence – Making it a criminal offence for people in authority to knowingly put a child at risk, or fail to remove them from a known risk, of criminal child abuse.
A new grooming offence – The creation of a separate criminal offence extending beyond current grooming laws to make it an offence to groom a child, their parents or others with the intention of committing a sexual offence against the child (regardless of whether the sexual offence occurs).
Easier access to the civil justice system
Address legal entity of non-government organisations – Require non-government organisations to be incorporated and adequately insured.
New structures – The Victorian Government is to work with the Australian Government to require organisations that engage with children to adopt incorporated legal structures.
Remove time limits – Legislative amendments to exclude criminal child abuse from the current statute of limitations, recognising that it can take decades for victims to come forward.
Assistance applications – Legislative amendments to specify no time limits apply to applications for assistance by victims of criminal child abuse.
Duty of care – Ensure organisations are held accountable and have a legal duty to prevent criminal child abuse.
Avenue for justice
Specific scheme for victims of child abuse – An independent alternative avenue for justice for victims not in a position to pursue civil claims in the courts. It will be operated independently of organisations but paid for by the organisations.
Improving organisation responses to allegations of criminal child abuse
Independent statutory body – To oversee and monitor the handling of child abuse allegations by organisations, undertake independent investigations and scrutinise and audit systems in place.
Review – Current Department of Education and early childhood development procedures for responding to child abuse allegations.
Effective selection of suitable personnel – Institute a system of compliance under the Working with Children Act
Manage situational risk – Government it review its contractual and funding arrangements with organisations that work with children to ensure a minimum standard for a child-safe environment.
Prevention systems and processes – The Government should identify a way to support peak bodies to build preventative capacity.
Awareness – The Government to ensure non-government organisations are equipped with information regarding the prevention of child abuse.
As we have noted earlier, the majority of submissions and publicity surrounding this inquiry concerned actions by personnel of Christian organisations. Non christian religions were invited to respond to the inquiry and were given leave to appear. Among those given leave to appear were Religions for Peace Australia (representing non-christian religions generally), The Jewish Board of Deputies, the Islamic Council of Victoria, the Australian Women’s Centre for Human Rights (representing Muslim women in particular and other women generally), The Federation of Indian Associations – Victoria.
The final report and reccomendations did not make reference to any abuse in non-christian religions. It was noted that the non-christian religions – the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Federation of Indian Associations (and others) had all taken steps to put proactive policies in place, provide training and awareness and to provide particular input on duty of care and awareness to (ministers) (priests) (imams) (rabbis) currently serving in Victoria.
The Executive Summary is available for download and reading here
The full two volume report is available on the front page of the Victorian Parliament Website.