Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse

The Australian Government today introduced legislation to amend the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to assist the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Joint Media Release

Prime Minister
The Hon Julia Gillard MP

Attorney-General
The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP

Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

13 February 2013

The Australian Government today introduced legislation to amend the Royal Commissions Act 1902 to assist the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The amendments will allow one or more of the six Royal Commissioners to conduct hearings. The Royal Commissions Act currently only permits hearings to be conducted by all members of a multi-member Commission or by a quorum.

This amendment will assist the Commission to distribute its hearing work efficiently where this is appropriate.

The other purpose of the Bill is to allow the Commissioners to receive information from those affected by child abuse at less formal ‘private sessions’.

For many, telling their stories of child sexual abuse will be very traumatic and these private sessions will mean that people affected by this crime can voluntarily participate in the Royal Commission in a less formal setting than a hearing.

People attending a private session would not be required to give evidence under oath, and their information would be used in a way that did not disclose their identity. The Commissioners could also authorise people to support a person attending at a private session.

The Royal Commission is as much about assisting victims of past abuse to be heard, as it is about investigating systemic failures to prevent future abuse.

The proposed amendments will provide similar protection to participants who give information at a private session as would apply if they were giving evidence at a formal hearing.

This Government believes that every child has the right to a safe and happy childhood.

For more information on the Royal Commission, led by Justice Peter McClellan AM, call 1800 099 340 or go to www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au