What is the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse?

PUBLISHED 02 Jun 2017

If you’ve been following the news recently, it’s likely you’ll have heard about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. But what is the commission’s role, and how does it function?

This article will outline some of the key responsibilities of the commission, as well as highlight the important job it does in bringing historic incidents of child sexual abuse to the attention of authorities and the general public.

What does the Royal Commission do?

The commission has hit headlines recently due to its work in uncovering child sexual abuse claims against various religious organisations across Australia.

However, it’s not just the church that the agency investigates; all major institutions fall under its remit, including schools, sports clubs and government organisations. The authority explores private, public and non-government bodies that have at any point in time interacted with children.

According to the commission’s website, the agency’s aim is to create a safer future for children and identify when systems have failed to protect them. The commission often provides recommendations on ways to improve policies, practices and laws surrounding the protection of children.

Recent investigations

The commission’s ongoing investigation into child sexual abuse remains one of its most high-profile jobs. In the course of its duty, the agency has helped publish many damning figures regarding abuse complaints against the church.

For example, 4,444 incidents of abuse were reported against the Catholic church in Australia between 1980 and 2015, implicating 7 per cent of all priests in the country.

Meanwhile, data published in March 2017 showed the Anglican church received more than 1,100 complaints about a similar 35-year period. However, only 41 per cent of survivors received compensation.

How can the Royal commission help me?

The commission’s aim is to bring child sexual abuse into the spotlight through case studies, public hearings, research reports and witness statements.

While hearings do not focus on specific cases, they raise awareness of the failings of institutions in dealing with allegations of abuse, which can lead to prosecutions, reforms and compensation for victims.

Nevertheless, the commission cannot make decisions on criminal matters, as it is not a court of law. Victims are instead advised to report abuse claims to the appropriate authorities and seek the services of an experienced lawyer.

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