Page 4169 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 24 October 2018
One of the key recommendations of the royal commission was that there be no exception to reporting obligations in relation to child abuse and specifically that there be no exception for abuse disclosed within a religious confessional. We take this recommendation seriously and we have engaged Justice Julie Dodds-Streeton to review the legal issues around implementing this recommendation and to provide us with a foundation for ensuring that child protection comes first in our legal system.
Justice Dodds-Streeton is an experienced former Federal Court and Victorian Supreme Court judge. She will provide the ACT government with a thorough foundation for implementing the recommendation. Ensuring the protection of children now and in the future is our top priority. These reforms, and those we will implement, are an important reflection of our acknowledgement of past failures and our commitment to take responsibility and to take action.
MS ORR: Can the Attorney-General give some examples of how these changes are already improving child safety?
MR RAMSAY: I thank Ms Orr for the supplementary question. This government has engaged with the royal commission throughout its existence and has acted on findings prior to its final report. Already there is a stronger framework for reporting and investigating allegations of abuse. The ACT’s reportable conduct scheme requires organisations to report all allegations of misconduct involving a child to the Ombudsman.
The scheme originally covered services like school, childcare and out of home care. From 1 July 2018 that scheme has been expanded to cover religious organisations and their facilities and programs, for example, sporting or youth group services. The expansion of the reportable conduct scheme emphasises our view that all institutions caring for children must be accountable and they must take steps to prevent abuse.
We have also taken steps to ensure that the criminal justice system holds offenders accountable. In February this year, stronger offences for historic sex abuse and grooming were passed in this chamber. Those offences give police and prosecutors better tools to bring to justice offenders who target children. Our approach to child safety is comprehensive. We will ensure across government that the royal commission’s recommendations are indeed put into action.
MR PETTERSSON: Can the minister inform the Assembly about the resources that are available to support survivors who have and will continue to come forward?
MR RAMSAY: I thank Mr Pettersson for the supplementary question. The royal commission and the brave survivors who have come forward during the process have brought to light failings and they are entitled to our support. We can expect that more people will come forward as the process of reform continues. It is critical that those people are supported with the right services, particularly in relation to seeking redress under the new national scheme, and that is why in this year’s budget there is $400,000 for counselling and support services that will be provided locally.