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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3792 ..


through the AFP’s thinkUknow program and through the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

The ACT has also implemented other recommendations that came out of the royal commission, including removing the limitation periods for civil actions on child abuse; criminalising ongoing abuse, not just individual acts; broadening the offence of grooming to include persons other than the child, for example grooming parents to give the perpetrator better access to the child; and excluding good character as a factor in reducing a perpetrator’s sentence if good character is what allowed them to gain access to children in the first place. These changes are designed to make the process easier and less traumatic for victims and bring our laws more in line with community expectations.

The royal commission showed that child abusers come from all walks of life. It exposed that some abusers were very powerful people who used their influence to commit abuse and to cover it up. It showed the clear, repeated and systemic failure of organisations to address the scourge of child abuse. Clearly, governments had to implement tough new laws and close legal loopholes to protect children. Mandatory reporting is necessary to protect children. Adults who become aware of child abuse must proactively report this information. Children are vulnerable. They need our protection.

It is very difficult for victims to disclose that they are being abused at the time or after it has occurred. Many victims do not come forward until decades after the fact. Some never come forward. This leads to situations where perpetrators may go undetected for years. Children may lack the capacity or ability to report abuse or take steps to protect themselves, especially if the abuser is an authoritative figure or a trusted person. It can be extremely difficult for children to be able to address what has happened to them. Often they have been manipulated by the perpetrator through fear of punishment if they were to ever tell anyone.

Perpetrators frequently have multiple victims or offend against one victim over extended periods. Failing to report abuse may lead a child to suffer repeated abuse or for more children to experience abuse. Child abuse has a huge impact on victims and its effects can last a lifetime. Supporting victims through the reporting process, no matter their age, is vital for their mental health and recovery.

These reforms are vital in protecting children in our city. We must ensure that history is never repeated and that governments do not fail children again. Australia’s government institutions have failed generations of young people. Childhoods were stolen. We must ensure that perpetrators do not escape justice and that children and young people are safe. It is clear that mandatory reporting is necessary to prevent these crimes occurring. It is the responsibility of all Canberrans to ensure the safety of our children and together we can ensure that children are protected and perpetrators face justice.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (3.08): I thank Mr Pettersson for raising this matter of public importance which refers specifically to the new legal obligation effective from 1 September this year that anyone over 18 years of age in the ACT who


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