Royal Commission researches child abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has commenced the year with much energy.

The first public hearing into a Uniting Church institution was announced late last month. Sydney’s Knox Grammar School will be the focus of Case Study 23 commencing on 23 February.

The Royal Commission’s website states the hearing will enquire into the response of Knox and the Uniting Church “between 1970 and 2013 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct by a number of teachers towards students at Knox Grammar School”.

People or institutions who believe they have direct interest in the scope of the hearing are invited to lodge an application for leave to appear at the public hearing by 9 February.

The Royal Commission is undertaking comprehensive, ongoing research comprising 48 separate projects. The Commission itself is conducting some of these projects, while the majority have been contracted out to various research bodies throughout Australia. Eight have been completed and 31 are underway. Many projects focus on the history of this issue, including detailed analysis of previous Inquiries such as the recent Inquiry conducted in Victoria.

The Commission is interested in the past, the present and the future. The answers to many questions are being sought. How have institutions responded to child sexual abuse? How safe do children feel in institutional contexts? More than 2800 individuals have now spoken to the Commission in private sessions. What are these stories telling us about the impacts of child abuse and the responses of institutions?  What are the most effective ways to assist those who have been abused?

The impact and effectiveness of current legal systems and the responses across federal and state governments is being examined, particularly mandatory reporting, criminal and civil litigation, working with children checks and redress.

A new discussion paper from the Royal Commission regarding models of redress and compensation for those who have been abused is due for release and will seek responses during February. This will be considered by the Assembly Task Group drawing on the experience and knowledge across the synods.

The Commission’s research program is also exploring the effectiveness of actions designed to protect children, including the screening of employees and volunteers. What are the best ways to develop and maintain settings which are safe for children? To this end the synod is developing a Keeping Children Safe policy in consultation with a range of people across the church.

The policy builds upon the Safe Church resources and training provided through the Culture of Safety Unit and draws upon best practice, including work done by the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People.

If you would like to know more about the research program please visit the Royal Commission website. Some papers are also available on our website in the Keeping Children Safe section. You will also find all the Safe Church resources there.

The Commission is continuing to hold private sessions through until March in Melbourne and a public hearing will be held in Melbourne from 2-13 February. The hearing will examine the response of Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi (Sydney) to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Charles Gibson
Executive Officer
Synod Royal Commission Task Group

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