The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shone a spotlight on molestation, leading to the announcement of new laws

Published 28 Nov 2017

Nearly a quarter of a million children in Australia were suspected victims of abuse or deemed at risk of abuse in 2015-16, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Unfortunately, these are just the cases that are known to child protection services. The full extent of abuse in the country is difficult to calculate due to unreported incidents and a lack of support in more remote or rural areas.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has nevertheless shone a spotlight on both historic and contemporary instances of abuse occurring at some of the most well-known organisations in Australia.

As such, the Federal and state governments have made a concerted effort to modernise child abuse legislation to prevent further misconduct and provide justice to survivors.

Crimes Legislation Amendment bill

In September, the Coalition Government unveiled the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill.

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan described the law as the toughest crackdown on paedophiles in a generation. The legislation aims to:

  • Increase prison sentences for child abusers;
  • Reduce the likelihood of alleged perpetrators receiving bail;
  • Introduce mandatory minimum sentences;
  • Improve supervision of offenders following a prison sentence; and
  • Establish new child abuse laws for online grooming and other crimes.

"Since 2012, only 58.7 per cent of convicted Commonwealth child sex offenders received a term of imprisonment. For those who did, the most common period of actual imprisonment was just six months," Mr Keenan said.

"This represents a staggering number of offenders who are released into the community, often without any form of monitoring, posing an unacceptable risk to children everywhere."

Child abuse becomes key issue

The Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill is the latest in a raft of changes aimed at tackling child abuse.

Earlier this year, the Federal government announced plans to stop paedophiles from travelling overseas to exploit children in developing countries.

Meanwhile, the NSW government finalised a new law in 2016 that abolished existing time limits on compensation claims for child abuse survivors. Previously, claimants only had between three and 12 years to pursue a civil complaint, yet a royal commission report found the average time it takes for someone to disclose child abuse is 22 years.

The changes now mean more people are eligible for compensation in relation to historic incidents of abuse that they may only now be able to discuss.

If you'd like to learn more about NSW laws surrounding child abuse, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyer for a confidential consultation.