New Zealand: Royal Commission releases interim report on abuse in care

In 2018 the New Zealand Government established The Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in Care. Its purpose was to inquire into and report upon responses by institutions to instances and allegations of historical abuse in state care and faith based institutions between 1950 and 2000.

The Royal Commission has now published its interim report to the Government and has indicated that it is impossible to determine the precise number of people abused in state and faith-based care.  This is due to large gaps and deficiencies in data collected at the time. There has never been a comprehensive census or count of people in the numerous care settings. In some cases, records were not kept at all or have been lost, and even where there are records, it is often difficult or impossible to trace an individual’s path through multiple care settings over time. 

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The impact of Cardinal Pell’s acquittal on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The High Court decision handed down last week clears the way for the full release of unpublished findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which referred to Cardinal Pell.

Although the Royal Commission published its final report in 2019 the sections of the report detailing its findings in relation to Cardinal Pell and his evidence were heavily redacted.

The Royal Commission heard evidence from Cardinal Pell from Rome about what he may have known about paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale and the offending of other priests that were being investigated by the Royal Commission.

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The challenges of Redress

The provision of financial redress for victims and survivors of abuse is never easy and there is no system which is satisfactory to all. In a series of blogs to be published this week, we consider the latest schemes and update on how they are progressing.

A rally for survivors and their supporters took place in Melbourne on Sunday the 31 March 2019, amid calls for the National Redress Scheme (the scheme) to be changed.

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Update on the Australian National Redress Scheme

On the 19 June the Australian Parliament passed legislation to establish the National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, ensuring the scheme can begin on 1 July 2018. Continue reading

Sexual abuse in sport  – Nassar and Volume 14 of the Royal Commission report– sports, recreational, arts, culture, community and hobby groups

In the week that saw Dr Larry Nassar, the Michigan State University and Olympic sports doctor sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing female gymnasts in the USA, it is timely to reflect on Volume 14 of the report of the Royal Commission (RC) which focuses on sports and recreational institutions.

The RC identified that there is a real challenge in ensuring child safety in sports and recreational institutions and this is due to the diverse nature of the sector – ranging from affiliated, grant maintained and well-funded, co-ordinated, well-regulated and managed institutions with compliance obligations to small informal not for profit voluntary and community groups and activities where there is a patent lack of policy, procedure, regulation and information.

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Appalling, dismal and catastrophic failures

Volume 16 of the Royal Commission’s (RC) final report focuses on religious organisations. It runs to 3 books, longer than any other volume in the report, and contains 58 recommendations. 7382 survivors (48.8% of those who contacted the RC) reported abuse, in 1691 religious institutions. This was more than in connection with any other type of organisation. There were 30 case studies which, amongst other issues, revealed that many religious leaders knew about allegations of abuse but failed to take any action. The failures of religious organisations are considered to be particularly troubling as a result of the significant part religion has played in the lives of many children. Many survivors reported that as a result of the abuse they had suffered a loss of faith as well as a loss of trust.

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Identification and disclosure of child abuse

Identifying child sexual abuse especially in an institutional setting is the first and often most important step in protecting children and preventing its re-occurrence.

It is not sufficient just to educate children to recognise behaviours that constitute sexual abuse, and instruct them to tell someone if they are abused. Instead, adults also need to be attuned to signs of harm in children and equipped to identify signs of possible sexual abuse. Adults and the wider community need to better understand the dynamics of sexual abuse and how to recognise grooming tactics, and to notice emotional and behavioural changes in children.

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Impacts of child sexual abuse: the ripple effect

Volume 3 of the final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the RC) considers and explains the impacts of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts on survivors and often on their family members, friends, and entire communities.

The impacts of child sexual abuse are different for each survivor, for many it can have deep rooted and lasting impacts while others do not feel that they have been profoundly harmed by the experience.

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Survivors, perpetrators and statistics

Continuing our series of blogs commenting upon the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the RC) this blog considers by reference to numbers and statistics the information obtained about survivors and perpetrators.

The survivors

At the time of issuing its final report the Royal Commission (RC) had spoken with more than 8,000 survivors in private sessions and received more than 1,000 written accounts.

In compiling its final report, it analysed the experiences of the 6,875 survivors as told to them in private sessions up until 31 May 2017.

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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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