Interesting developments as South Australia seriously strengthen child abuse laws

Readers of this blog may wonder why we cover so many of the developments in this area of the law in Australia however, our experience is that there are definite parallels between the work of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and IICSA and it seems inevitable that there will be further parallels and similarities arising from the implementation of the recommendations made by both inquiries.

The attorney general for Southern Australia Vickie Chapman spoke earlier this year about how “The Royal Commission highlighted shocking cases of abuse and abhorrent behaviour that should never have been swept under the rug and allowed to go unpunished” she went on to say that reforms were being introduced with the aim of  better protecting “…children and punish those who turn a blind eye to these unforgiveable crimes.”

The new laws that were passed by the State Parliament in early December, 2021 include the following:-

  • Reversing the onus of proof so that an institution will be held liable for abuse committed by associated persons, unless the institution can prove it took reasonable steps to prevent the abuse from occurring.
  • Making an institution liable for child abuse committed by its employee, where the institution supplied the occasion for the abuse, and the employee took advantage of it (known as vicarious liability)
  • Holding institutions vicariously liable for people who are akin to employees (but not actually employed by the institution)
  • Removing the legal shield for unincorporated associations to avoid legal liability
  • Enabling survivors whose settlements were unfair as a result of certain legal barriers to apply to the court to have the settlement set aside

While some of these measures are familiar to practitioners in this area of the law in England and Wales (especially the concepts of vicarious liability and of someone being in a role akin to employment) the measures providing for the reversing of the onus of proof and the setting aside of settlements that were unfair as a result of certain legal barriers, which we discussed in a BLOG earlier last week all provide further examples of this ever evolving area of the law and a willingness by politicians and governments everywhere to take whatever measures they deem necessary to make it clear that child abuse and/or turning a blind eye to it will not be tolerated in the future.

Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM (

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is a national charity offering support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. As well as advocating on behalf of survivors in the media and elsewhere, NAPAC also trains professionals who have frequent contact with survivors of child abuse as part of their working environment. If you have been affected by the issues raised in today’s blog, or would like additional support, please use the links above.

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