Earlier this year, the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Abuse wrapped up a four-year investigation into some of the country's most respected organisations.
The church, public schools, armed forces and many more institutions were exposed as having failed to adequately respond to allegations of child abuse within their ranks. Indeed, a number of organisations were complicit in the abuse and ignored or covered up the actions of perpetrators.
According to figures obtained by the royal commission, 7 per cent of all Catholic priests operating in Australia between 1950 and 2009 faced accusations of abuse. More than 4,440 incidents were reported.
New report highlights criminal justice shortcomings
The commission has since published a new report with 84 recommendations aimed at reforming the Australian criminal justice system to better serve child abuse survivors and their families.
Here are four of the key suggested changes:
1/ Amend sentencing standards
States and territories have been urged to introduce laws that ensure child abuse offenders are sentenced according to legislation in force at the time of the trial, rather than when the incidents occurred.
Historic sentences for these crimes are notoriously short, with survivors often feeling perpetrators aren't adequately punished.
2/ Update grooming laws
Legislators should create or amend broad grooming laws that make it an offence to communicate with a child in any way with the intention of committing abuse.
The royal commission recommended these laws should also be extended to include the grooming of parents and carers.
3/ Criminalise reporting failures
Authorities who fail to report child abuse within their organisations should face criminal charges, the report claimed.
The commission believes that even religious confessions should be subject to this law, meaning clergy who are told about child abuse offences in the confessional booth could be open to prosecution if they remained silent.
4/ Strengthen institutional child protection
Institutions should also be expected to protect children from any substantial risk of abuse of which they become aware. Failure to do so would be a criminal offence.
The commission made this recommendation after evidence uncovered during its investigation showed that alleged child abusers were routinely moved other geographic locations after accusations arose. This allowed perpetrators to continue abusing children at their new site.
Are you or a loved one a survivor of institutional child abuse? You may be entitled to compensation for your suffering. Please contact a member of the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for a confidential free consultation.