Royal Commission victim briefings

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Twelve months after it began its investigations, the national Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse has revealed some more details of its private briefings.

Commissioners use the briefings to gather information from victims directly.

In at least one case, it’s led to a major examination of a prominent institution, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).

The data reveals that men make up more than half the victims who’ve taken part so far.

Tom Nightingale reports.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: In the week before Christmas, the Royal Commission revealed the conclusions of a forensic examination of the YMCA.

Counsel assisting, Gail Furness, had startling words to say.

GAIL FURNESS: That indeed it is not currently a child-safe institution.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The YMCA was in the spotlight for employing a man named Jonathan Lord as a childcare worker. He’s now in jail after abusing 12 boys in his care.

The organisation was criticised for failures in recruiting, training and supervising staff and for its response to allegations made against Jonathan Lord.

It’s the sort of situation the Royal Commission was set up to investigate, and it was all the result of claims made in some of the 1,000 private briefings conducted so far.

Now the Commission is saying more about just who has taken part in those briefings.

Two thirds of the reported victims are men; nearly three quarters are aged 50 or over.

One in 10 are aged over 70, and more than any other type of institution, people said they were abused in a children’s home.

LEONIE SHEEDY: I’ve sat with many, many people and prior to going in, they’re a bundle of nerves. They say ‘oh, but what if they don’t believe me?’

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Leonie Sheedy works with the Care Leavers Australia Network.

It’s a support group for people who grew up in orphanages or foster care, or children’s homes.

LEONIE SHEEDY: They come out and they just feel – you know, people have told me they’ve had their best night’s sleep after going to the Royal Commission. They really feel that it’s been cathartic, and been they’ve been believed by the highest authority in this country – a Royal Commission.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The people that you’re aware of who’ve taken part in these private sessions, have they told their stories before or is it, in some cases at least, is it the first time they’ve actually opened up?

LEONIE SHEEDY: For many people, it’s the first time they’ve opened up to people in authority. They have, some of the people that CLAN has supported have told us their stories over the years, but many of them are first time people who have told their stories for the first time.

Many of them, when they have gone and told their stories to people in authority, they haven’t been believed. Even their own families have not believed them and said ‘oh that couldn’t have happened in an orphanage. There’s no way that the brothers could have done that to you. They wouldn’t get away with that’, or ‘the nuns couldn’t have done this to you’, or the government workers.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The Commission has up to 800 more private briefings scheduled with child abuse victims in the first half of this year

Royal Commission Website:

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse


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