Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 27 November 2018) . . Page.. 4872 ..
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (4.23): I also rise today to speak in support of the bill presented by the Attorney-General. Through the revelations of the many survivors who testified in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, backed up by an ever-increasing body of research, we can be in no doubt as to the detrimental personal and societal implications for children who have been sexually abused. It impacts across physical and mental health, education, employment outcomes, addiction, further exposure to abuse and contact with the criminal justice system. And it has a generational impact.
We cannot prevent the harm those children and young people suffered from institutional failings and wilful cover-ups, because it has already happened, but we owe it to them and their families to ensure that it does not happen again. We also know that so-called benevolent institutions were often at the heart of complaints and misconduct, and allegations of sexual abuse, and could not be trusted to do the right thing or to take action against paedophiles and child molesters, choosing all too often to protect the institution and their own self-interest at the expense of the vulnerable. The people within these institutions who had the power to protect children from known predators failed to do so, and as a result the lives of many people and their families have been irrevocably damaged.
In this amendment bill I am pleased to see that there are measures to address both the injustices and harms of the past—whose impacts, as I said, are still being felt—and the prevention of further injustice and harm into the future. I know the Attorney-General has already detailed these amendments, but I would like to affirm my support and the support of the Greens for those key amendments, in turn.
First, persons in a position of authority who could have prevented a child from being sexually abused but who are guilty of failing to protect children from the risk of sexual abuse may be brought to justice.
Second, in recognition of the impacts of trauma as a result of sexual abuse, and the often continuous, repetitious nature of sexual abuse, particularly for cases of historical abuse, there are new provisions to allow for charging offences as a “course of conduct”. In this, it is not necessary to prove specific instances of sexual abuse or provide detailed accounts of each and every time the child was sexually abused by the same perpetrator. Rather, it is necessary to prove that the sexual abuse occurred and was ongoing.
Third, there is recognition of our current understanding of the devastating impacts of sexual abuse and current sentencing practices but without being able to exceed the maximum sentence at the time when the offence was committed.
Fourth, the provisions extend protection mechanisms for witnesses in child sexual abuse proceedings and other vulnerable witnesses, whether or not they are a complainant.
This amendment bill is another important step in implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to