Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 March 2018) . . Page.. 800 ..
MR RAMSAY (Ginninderra—Attorney-General, Minister for Regulatory Services, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (11.09): I also want to acknowledge again the pain and the long-term trauma that have occurred to far too many people through child sexual abuse, and I want to acknowledge especially that that includes the families who are present in the chamber today. My commitment, not only through my work here but in the government’s work altogether, is to a safer Canberra for all children. I also want to thank Mrs Kikkert for bringing the motion before the chamber today.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was comprehensive and it looked at ways that our legislation, our practices and our culture need to change. A clear lesson from the royal commission’s report is that prevention, reporting and responding to abuse require systemic change. Systemic change requires that all our efforts will inform and change laws and change practices and that they will be considered together in context.
Mrs Kikkert’s motion focuses on the statistics and on ensuring that there is the provision of information to parents and carers about the signs of abuse. Clearly, informing parents and carers so that they are prepared to recognise and report abuse is absolutely vital and it is also absolutely vital that the institutions, government agencies and the police who receive those reports are ready to respond and to offer support. These two things must go together.
This government’s work to respond to the royal commission recognises that protecting children and responding to abuse take a whole-of-society and a whole-of-government approach. And that is why, in supporting the motion as amended by Minister Stephen-Smith and as amended by Mr Coe, I will briefly provide some details about the extensive work being done in my portfolio and across the government to respond. And, importantly, I will be drawing the Assembly’s attention to how this work requires a detailed understanding of our legal, institutional and community framework for protecting children.
In addition to the preventative work that has been outlined by Minister Stephen-Smith, we are also working to ensure that when parents, carers, survivors or anyone reports abuse they are able to rely on the best possible support in response. As Minister Stephen-Smith has highlighted, this government will be responding to the royal commission’s recommendations by June this year. That response will demonstrate our resolve as a community to take responsibility for the widespread institutional failures that have allowed abuse to occur far too often.
To date, this government has demonstrated that engaging with the royal commission’s work and responding with action is a top priority. Prior to the commission’s final report, which was released in December last year, the ACT had already begun law reform work to respond. In August 2016 this Assembly passed legislation brought forward by my predecessor to remove all time limitations for survivor lawsuits against institutions. And this was a direct response to the royal commission’s civil law recommendations. In May 2017 that change was expanded to include all lawsuits against individuals or institutions brought by survivors of sexual abuse. These