The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (External link) uncovered tragic and widespread abuse of children who were in the care of government and non-government institutions. Children reporting abuse were not believed and their allegations were ignored.
The Victorian Government welcomes the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report and thanks the Royal Commission for its commitment and dedication to these important issues. The Victorian Government also notes the Australian Government's response to the Final Report (External link).
As well as making important recommendations for governments and institutions, the Royal Commission provided essential support for survivors of abuse in Australia. It has allowed their voices to be heard.
The Victorian Government praises the bravery and courage of survivors who shared their personal stories, and thanks the advocates who have worked tirelessly to make sure that abuse of children is brought out into the light. Without them, the Royal Commission would not have been able to do its important work. The Victorian Government acknowledges findings of historical abuse within Victorian Government institutions and the ongoing psychological and physical harm suffered by many survivors. The Victorian Government is taking responsibility to ensure that these failures to protect children never happen again.
The Victorian Government is continually improving its systems for protecting children, and the recommendations of the Royal Commission will be instrumental in guiding laws and practice to better protect children from abuse.
This includes building cultures across the community that give a voice to children and young people, empower them to raise concerns, and ensure that the response is effective and appropriate when they do.
The Victorian Government is committed to working with other jurisdictions to protect all children from abuse and implement more than 50 recommendations requiring intergovernmental collaboration. The Victorian Government is continuing to consult the Australian Government and state and territory governments to progress recommendations that require national action.
Further information about the cooperative work between Australian governments that is underway is available on the Australian Government's response to the Royal Commission website (External link).
The Victorian Government Response to the Royal Commission reflects the Victorian Government’s ongoing commitment to ensure that these failures to protect children never happen again and to address the needs of survivors.
For the next five years, the Victorian Government will report annually on its progress in improving protections for children.
Victoria’s work to protect children
Victoria has taken strong action to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse, and will continue to do so in responding to the Royal Commission.
In particular, the Victorian Government has introduced a suite of significant reforms since the handing down of the landmark Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations, Betrayal of Trust, on 13 November 2013. In its response (External link), the Victorian Government supported or supported in principle all 15 of its recommendations.
Many of the Royal Commission’s recommendations have already been fully or partially implemented in Victoria by reforms introduced to respond to the Betrayal of Trust report, including new criminal offences, measures to create child safe organisations, and civil law reforms to provide better access to justice for survivors of institutional child abuse.
Victoria is finalising its implementation of all the recommendations of Betrayal of Trust, as described in detail below.
New criminal offences
The Victorian Government introduced three new criminal offences to further protect children from abuse:
- a grooming offence that targets communication, including online communication, with a child or their parents with the intent of committing child sexual abuse
- a failure to disclose offence that requires adults to report to police a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child (unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so)
- a failure to protect offence that applies to people within organisations who knew of a risk of child sexual abuse by someone in the organisation and had the authority to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently failed to do so.
Child safe organisations
The Victorian Government has implemented a range of measures to create child safe organisations by strengthening the capacity of organisations to prevent and respond to the risks of child abuse. These measures include:
- the introduction of Victorian Child Safe Standards (External link) that aim to drive cultural change in organisations, so that protecting children from the risks of abuse is embedded in everyday thinking and practice. The Victorian Child Safe Standards are compulsory for all organisations that provide services to children.
- the introduction of a reportable conduct scheme, commencing in stages from 1 July 2017. This scheme requires organisations with a high level of responsibility for children to respond to allegations of child-related misconduct made against their workers and volunteers, and report those allegations to the Commissioner for Children and Young People (External link).
Civil law reforms
The Victorian Government is continuing to implement a range of civil law reforms to provide better access to justice for survivors of institutional child abuse.
On 1 July 2017, the Wrongs Amendment (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2017 (External link) commenced. The Act created a new duty of care that will allow an organisation to be held responsible for child abuse that occurred in their organisation, unless the organisation proves that it took reasonable precautions to prevent the abuse.
On 1 July 2015, the Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015 (External link) commenced. The Act completely removed the limitation periods that applied to civil actions founded upon child abuse, with both retrospective and prospective effect. The reforms also removed the 12-year long-stop limitation period for wrongful death actions in relation to child abuse brought by dependants of a deceased victim.
On 24 May 2018, the Victorian Parliament passed the Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018 (External link). The Act provides that where an institutional child abuse plaintiff wishes to pursue damages against an unincorporated non-government organisation (NGO) that controls one or more associated trusts, that NGO must nominate an entity that is capable of being sued to act as a proper defendant,. If the NGO does not do so, the Act provides that the trustees of the associated trust or trusts are the proper defendants in the proceedings (on behalf of the NGO) and will incur any liability arising from the proceeding.
The Victorian Government is considering requiring organisations that receive government funding to provide services to children to be incorporated and have adequate insurance, which was another recommendation of Betrayal of Trust.
On 9 March 2018, Victoria was one of the first states in the country to sign up to the National Redress Scheme (External link). On 8 May 2018, the Victorian Government introduced legislation to refer powers to the Commonwealth Parliament to allow Victorian institutions to participate in the National Redress Scheme. This will also respond to key recommendations of the Royal Commission.
Changes to information sharing to promote the safety and wellbeing of children
The Victorian Government wants to help children and young people stay safe and have the best possible chance to live successful and happy lives.
The Child Information Sharing (CIS) Scheme allows authorised organisations and professionals who work with children, young people and their families to share current and historical information with each other to promote children's wellbeing and safety.
Read more about the Child Information Sharing (CIS) Scheme
Overview of Victorian Government Response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission
The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations in total, including more than 50 recommendations requiring governments to work together:
The Victorian Government Response includes a response to all 409 recommendations and does not reject any recommendations.
In summary, the Victorian Government:
- accepts 128 recommendations where all elements of the recommendation are supported
- accepts in principle 165 recommendations where the Victorian Government supports the intent or merit of the recommendation, but does not necessarily support the method for achieving the policy
- states that Victoria will give further consideration to 24 recommendations where further analysis is required for the Victorian Government to determine its position
- notes 92 recommendations where responsibility for the recommendation does not sit with the Victorian Government.