Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 7 June 2018) . . Page.. 2189 ..
Keeping children and young people safe and protecting them from harm is everyone’s responsibility, including the church, including every religious body. Child protection is a core responsibility of every state and territory government. We will continue to work together with the community to support children and young people, building on significant previous work that the government has undertaken in child protection.
Our priorities are reflected in the ACT children and young people’s commitment for 2015-25. The commitment is an important high-level strategic policy that sets the vision for a whole-of-community approach to promoting the rights of children and young people in the ACT. The ACT also has a strong system of oversight for children in out of home care, supported by a set of national standards, the Public Advocate, the ACT Children and Young People Commissioner, the official visitors scheme, the ACT Ombudsman, the Human Services Regulator and the Human Services Registrar.
In summary, the reportable conduct scheme aims to prevent, disrupt and respond to child abuse in organisations. This bill introduces changes that expand the scope of the scheme to include religious institutions acting on the recommendations of the royal commission and honouring the courage, the experiences and the trauma of the victims. I want to say to victims of institutional child sexual abuse that in this bill and those that follow enacting the recommendations of the royal commission, we have heard you. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
MR WALL (Brindabella) (12.05): It is clear that the bill before us is here because of the unconscionable actions of some within religious movements in our country. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse shone a light on the sickening actions and abuses of trust that have occurred, resulting in immense and immeasurable damage to many victims and their families.
As a student of Marist College Canberra for nine years of my education, I know that there was always an undertone of perhaps rumour and innuendo about some of the things that might happen if you were left alone with one of the brothers. However, it was, largely, absolutely unimaginable that these schoolyard urban legends or humour were built on fact. This continues to sicken me to my core.
It is fair to say that the social licence and the trust that religious orders have operated under have been violated and that there needs to be greater transparency in the conduct and operation of religious orders in Australia moving forward. The broadening of a reportable conduct scheme to some religious entities, in my opinion, is overdue. To that end I am supportive of this scheme. I do, however, feel I need to put some personal reservations and serious concerns that I hold on the record around the inclusion of religious confession as part of the scheme and the lack of genuine consultation that has occurred with the relevant religious orders as part of the preparation and introduction of this bill.
A wide range of citizens practise private confession, particularly amongst Christians. This includes western Catholics, eastern Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Anglicans, Lutherans and Methodists. Common to all of these faiths is that the priest, minister or clergyman hearing the confession is forbidden to repeat what has been heard to anyone. Catholics and Orthodox Christians call this the seal of confession.