Australia Leads With Long-term Tough Royal Commission On Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
Posted by Barry Pittard on March 4, 2013
For over two decades, via the international media and in many other ways, my colleagues and I have exposed Sathya Sai Baba and his monolithic, worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization. We know much about institutional and personal cover ups. Constantly, we have confronted these in our work involving many countries, and, not least, in one of the most venal countries in the world – India. A country which we, very mistakenly, had thought would become a great spiritual light to the world.
Indictingly, all our societies have taken tragic years to grapple meaningfully with child sexual abuse. Trustfully, the Australian Royal Commission into child abuse – expected to last at least three years – will prove not only a great turning point for Australia but (along with Ireland) inspire the rest of the world in combatting the evil of child sexual abuse. And of course, that other evil – which is for most of us to shut up and say nothing about it. See: Australian Royal Commission To Probe Institutional Handling Of Child Sexual Abuse. Posted by Barry Pittard on November 14, 2012.
On the downside, it is regrettable that some way has not yet been found, similarly, to address physical and emotional abuse and neglect, as distinct from sexual abuse.
The Australian newspaper reports that the head of the Royal Commission, Justice McClellan has said:
“We wish to emphasise that the commission has powers to compel the production of evidence and we will not hesitate to exercise those powers …..
“We will of course be mindful of the potential sensitivity which may require constraints on the publication of details it obtains by this means.
“The commission expects that all institutions that may have entered into confidential agreements will cooperate with the commission in relation to the disclosure of those matters.”
From top, left to right:
- Senior NSW Supreme Court judge
- Former chair of the Sydney Water Inquiry
- Former assistant commissioner at ICAC
- New appointee to the Family Court of Australia
- Victorian County Court judge and former president of Children’s Court
- Former Queensland police commissioner
- Oversaw police reforms following Fitzgerald inquiry
- Former WA senator
- Advocate on issues surrounding institutionalised childrenHelen Milroy
- Psychiatrist with a focus on the wellbeing of children
- Director for WA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental HealthRobert Fitzgerald
- Commissioner on the Productivity Commission since 2004
- Convenes the Indigenous Disadvantage Working Group
- Former Community and Disability Services commissioner in NSW
“Redress By Institutions”
In Ireland, the State – where there is not the same separation of Church and State powers – will bear half the cost of compensating institutional child molesters. In Australia, victim compensation will, expectedly, loom large. In this sense, the taxpayer is spared. But the perpetrator is not spared. The terms of reference direct the commissioners to find:
“what institutions and government should do… (to ensure) justice for victims through the provision of redress by institutions…”
I do trust that the Sathya Sai Organization, among many others, will, after icy shivers, give a great deal of thought to this notion: “redress by institutions…”
Sexual abuse of children is rife at all levels of society, and we all need to deal with it.
Leaving institutions or individuals to do the job – no matter how principled and dedicated some of them may be – is far from the best approach. The pressure to derail even the best processes is too great: The pressure to shut up for the ‘sake’ of family, school, company, etc. Or to compromise and, for example, settle out-of-court. To be frightened off. To be bought off.
We need to find a way, first, to hear the massed voices that have for so long been silent – or, rather, silenced. We need a way which inspires in victims that their testimony will truly change things – in all the systems: judicial, government, corporate, educational, religious, and so on. It is wrong to abuse victims twice-over – first, when they were victims of sexual abuse, and second, under grilling by adversarial lawyers or other unjust forces and circumstances which demean them.
Victims of child sexual abuse – whether it is recent or longer ago – will need to feel that we all mean business. That we intend a vast, beneficent historic change.
Posted by Barry Pittard on October 30, 2012.
Posted by Barry Pittard on November 1, 2012
Posted by Barry Pittard on September 5, 2011
Posted by Barry Pittard on March 23, 2010
Supreme Court judge to head abuse royal commissionBy ABC chief political correspondent Simon Cullen
Updated Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:19pm AEDT
New South Wales Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan has been appointed to lead the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
He will be supported by five other commissioners, including former Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson and former senator Andrew Murray, who have been asked to provide an interim report on progress by mid next year.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the Government will make sure that survivors of abuse receive the support they need and that lessons are learnt from the past.
“I believe our nation needs to have this royal commission,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Sydney.
“Child sexual abuse is a hideous, shocking and vile crime.
“It is clear from what is already in the public domain that too many children were the subject of child sexual abuse in institutions.”
The Government says the inquiry will have “as long as it needs” to finish its investigation, although each of the commissioners will be appointed for an initial period of three years.
Its main focus will be to investigate systemic failures within church and state-run institutions in preventing and dealing with child abuse.
“Today is the day that we start to create a future where people who perpetrate child sexual abuse cannot hide in institutions, where we work together to find a better way of keeping our children safe,” Ms Gillard said.
“The royal commission is into child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts.
“It will not deal with child sexual abuse in the family. It also will not deal with abuse of children which is not associated with child sexual abuse.”
Ms Gillard says the selection of commissioners and the terms of reference were finalised after extensive discussions with state leaders, law enforcement agencies, support groups and community leaders.
The commissioners will hold a telephone hook-up on Monday, with their first face-to-face meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis says the Coalition has examined the terms of reference and believe they are “sufficiently comprehensive” to carry out a proper investigation.
“It is very important that the royal commission not be constrained in pursuing its inquiries in relation to all institutions, both public and private, where there is reason to believe child sexual abuse may have taken place,” Senator Brandis said in a statement.
“For instance, there is a great deal of evidence of widespread sexual abuse of children within Indigenous communities, which the royal commission will have the opportunity to examine.”
Terms of reference
The terms of reference specifically ask the commissioners to consider what action governments and institutions should take to provide “redress” to victims of past and future sexual abuse.
Families Minister Jenny Macklin acknowledges the process will put extra pressure on victims support groups and has pledged to provide extra government funding to help.
“For many people, it will open up very old wounds and for that reason the Government will make sure that we provide support for individuals,” Ms Macklin said.
“We’ll also provide financial resources to those organisations that individual survivors know and trust.”
Given the large number of people expected to come forward with examples of abuse, the Government is proposing changes to the laws governing royal commissions to speed up the process.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says the current legislation only allows evidence to be heard before all commissioners at the same time.
“Part of our purpose of appointing six commissioners is because we expect that there will be very large numbers of people who may want to present to the commission,” Ms Roxon said.
“They may want to do it less formally than would normally be expected, and we certainly don’t intend that all evidence would need to be given to every one of the six commissioners at the one time.”
The Government has suggested the royal commission team establish a special investigations unit to work with victims of abuse and refer matters to police for prosecution where appropriate.
Ms Roxon says the Australian Federal Police has already offered to second officers to the inquiry, although she says it will be up to the commissioners to decide how best to organise the process.
There have been many inquiries and investigations into different aspects of child abuse over many years, many of which have taken place at a state level.
The commission has been asked to consider what information is already publicly available to avoid “unnecessary trauma to witnesses” and to speed up the process.
Some victims have already received compensation for the abuse they suffered and signed confidentiality agreements with the relevant institution.
Ms Roxon says the royal commission will not be limited in its work by those contracts.
“They do have far-reaching powers that enable them to override those (confidentiality) agreements or indeed immunities,” she said.
“But it would be pure speculation, which we are not prepared to make now, whether the commission will indeed take that approach or not.”
Ms Gillard says it will be up to the commission to decide what witnesses they call to give evidence, but she has urged people to cooperate with its investigation.
First posted Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:57pm AEDT