Review – Volume 15: Contemporary detention environments

Chapter 15 of the Royal Commission (RC) final report focuses on the risk of child sexual abuse in detention environments since 1990, as well as the responses of governments and institutions to the abuse. In particular it considers youth detention and immigration detention and recognises that children are generally safer in community settings than in closed detention.  It also makes 15 recommendations to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in detention environments and, where it does occur, to help ensure effective responses.

Lawful detention and detention-like environments include physically ‘closed’ and community-based detention environments, and otherwise ‘open’ institutions in which children are subjected to restrictive practices, such as physical restraint.

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Royal Commission recommendations for advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services

Volume 9 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission (RC) examines what the commission has learned about the advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment service needs of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, and outlines recommendations for improving service systems to better respond to those needs and assist survivors towards recovery.

There is a continuing need and demand for advocacy and support, and therapeutic treatment services. However there are barriers to help-seeking and effective service responses and it is noted that inadequate service responses can re-traumatise survivors of child sexual abuse. The Final Report seeks national leadership to reduce stigma, promote help-seeking and support good practice. To these ends, there are nine recommendations, many of which require additional Australian government, state or territorial government funding:

  1. Dedicated community support services.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches.
  3. Support services for victims and survivors who are disabled.
  4. A legal advice and referral service for victims and survivors.
  5. A national website and helpline as a gateway to accessible advice and information on childhood sexual abuse.
  6. Existing sexual assault service gaps to be addressed.
  7. Primary Health Networks to facilitate joined up, collaborative care and support services.
  8. Government, state and territorial government agencies to ensure relevant policy frameworks and strategies recognise the needs of victims and survivors and the benefits of implementing trauma-informed approaches.
  9. A national centre to raise awareness and understanding of the impacts of child sexual abuse, support help-seeking and guide best practice advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment.

Whilst some of these are jurisdiction specific many are likely to be similarly recommended by the IICSA and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

As ever the potential block on ensuring these recommendations are actioned will be the availability of government funding.


Hughes_Frank Written by Frank Hughes, partner at BLM

Royal Commission – Residential homes, missions, reformatories and hospitals prior to 1990

In our last blog we commented upon the conclusions of the Royal Commission (RC) in respect of out-of-home care after 1990. Volume 11 of the RC report considers out-of-home care in the period spanning the end of World War II to 1990 and covers what was learnt about survivors’ experiences of, and institutional responses to, child sexual abuse in residential homes, missions, reformatories and hospitals.

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Royal Commission – Out-of-home care

The Royal Commission’s (RC) final report includes a volume specifically dealing with institutional responses to child sexual abuse in contemporary (post 1990) out-of-home care.

The out-of-home system in Australia is similar to the UK in that when a child is considered to be unsafe living with their family or in an informal care arrangement, they are placed with alternative carers on a short or long term basis. These placements usually occur after there has been some statutory intervention.

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Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Schools

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse has published its final report.  Chapter 13 specifically considers Childhood sexual abuse in schools and makes a number of recommendations to prevent abuse from happening, and where it does to ensure an effective response.

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Support Services for survivors

As reported last week the Royal Commission has published its final and lengthy report. It covers many subjects, themes and organisations and in the next few weeks there will be further commentary on this blog about some of those topics and crucially the recommendations made.

One theme which has run through the work of the Royal Commission has been that of redress. Two years ago a redress scheme was recommended and it has now, in an amended version, been approved in principle to take effect from 1 July 2018. Redress means many different things to different people. As Lambeth Borough Council sought yesterday, amid some confrontation, to approve a scheme which seeks to make the path to redress simpler, it is clear that it is by no means straightforward to achieve. Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) retweeted a range of negative comments about the scheme which had taken over a year to draft and had had significant input into it from SOSA itself and its legal team. Yet it still remained the subject of damning criticism from some.

One issue which will always be a challenge is how to assess a monetary value in compensation for the abuse and its consequences. The Royal Commission recommended a scheme with maximum payments of A$200,000 (£114,760); the Australian Government Scheme implementing the Royal Commission recommendations will award up to a maximum of A$150,000 (£86,070); the Lambeth Scheme has a maximum payment of £125,000; the Northern Ireland recommendations which have made no progress since being published in January 2017 were for payments of up to £100,000. These are maximum payments for the most severe abuse. These may or may not be life changing sums of money, for some whatever the sum it is the recognition of the harm done which is what the money represents and for others no sum however big or small will compensate for what happened and what the consequences of the abuse have been. No matter what approach an organisation takes in assessing a monetary value for redress it is likely it will not be considered right by all victims and survivors. Making that assessment can be very difficult for all involved and a clear and easy formula for making a fair assessment which could be understood and applied by all is needed and remains elusive.

The Royal Commission’s 2015 report concluded that redress should include not just monetary payments but also a direct personal response as well as counselling and psychological care. The final report has expanded the response to victims and survivors to include the provision of a much wider, integrated and cohesive range of support services. Those recommendations include that there be a dedicated system of community-based support services which provides advocacy and support, including counselling and case management. The creation of a national service to assist victims and survivors understand the legal options and navigate the legal system is proposed, along with a national telephone helpline and website to provide information and assistance. The national service should, the Royal Commission concludes, be funded by the Australian Government and provide advice including about accessing, amending and annotating records and options for initiating police, civil litigation or redress processes. It will be interesting to see which of these recommendations are effected and which will be similarly recommended by the inquiries in England and Wales and Scotland when they in due course report on redress and support for survivors.


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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of abuse and neglect at BLM.

Final Hearing Day and Final Report publication by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse sat at 9.30am on Thursday the 14 December in Sydney for the last time.

The Chair Justice McClellan noted that on 12 November 2012 Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the creation of the Royal Commission, which was to be a national commission held jointly with each of the States and Territories.

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