The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse will deliver an interim report towards the end of this month. The Commission is expected to ask for a two-year extension, primarily to ensure all private sessions can be completed.
The Royal Commission is currently hearing its 12th case study, an independent private school in Perth. Instead of releasing all its findings in a final report tabled in Federal Parliament at the end of hearings, as is often the case, this Royal Commission is tabling reports of each case study at intermittent intervals. The first report, of Case Study No 1, was made public on Anzac Day.
In a media release issued by the Commission, CEO Janette Dines said this public hearing provided an opportunity to examine how two institutions responded to the behaviour of a particular child predator.
The sexual offender, Steven Larkins, had occupied positions of responsibility in Scouts Australia NSW and the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service.
The report made 27 findings concerning institutional responses to Mr Larkins’ conduct.
“The scope and purpose of this public hearing was to examine the appropriateness of the practices and procedures of regulatory agencies and how effectively these were applied,” Ms Dines said, “as well as giving consideration to the criminal justice system as it applies to sexual offenders.”
Shortly after this first report was made public, five members of the synod’s Royal Commission Task Group attended a forum for community service organisations on preparing to respond to the Commission, The forum, organised by the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, provided clear and practical advice on what to expect, the importance of thorough preparation, the need for honesty and transparency in all responses and a willingness to acknowledge failures.
Jenny Hardy, Executive Officer of knowmore, a legal service which helps individuals approach the Royal Commission, said organisations should look carefully at Case Study No 1 as it focuses on child safety and the importance of having documented processes, polices and training.
The Commission has received more than 2,000 requests for private sessions, with approximately 10 new approaches each day. Scott Widmer, Director Royal Commission Response for the Victorian Department of Human Services, told the forum that preliminary findings indicate that two thirds of abuse is by other children.
As well as conducting public and private hearings and private sessions, the Royal Commission invites submissions to Issues Papers. These are topics the Commissioners have determined are key to helping institutions and governments address or alleviate the impact of past and future child sex abuse in institutional contexts. The Commission is currently receiving submissions on redress schemes.
The various Synod Task Groups are working with the National Task Group to make a submission on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia in time for 2 June deadline.
The Commission provides regular updates on its website, including information about where it is holding private sessions. It has been visiting regional centres as well as the capital cities, and has invited people who might wish to seek a private session in the northern part of Western Australia to make contact.
A private hearing has been scheduled for Melbourne from 14 August to 4 September, but no further information has been released at this stage.
If you were sexually abused as a child or young person in an institution or institution-supported out-of-home care, or were abused within a church setting, you are invited to contact the Royal Commission to tell your story.
The synod has people who can assist, or if you do not feel comfortable contacting the Church, knowmore would be able to help. (www.knowmore.org.au)
For more details visit the Synod’s Royal Commission page: https://www.victas.uca.org.au/communityservices/Pages/Royal-Commission.aspx Royal Commission website: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au