The Australian government has the opportunity to seize the moment and lead the country with preventative responses to institutionalised child sexual abuse

SYDNEY, Wednesday 13 June 2018:  UNICEF Australia applauds the federal government for its commitment to implement at least 104 of the 122 recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, urging it to make significant investments in preventative strategies.
 
“From here on in, leadership will be the key to the responses taken by the federal government, given that the Royal Commission clearly exposed a failure of leadership across institutions throughout Australian society,” said UNICEF Australia CEO, Tony Stuart. “Strong government leadership will set the tone for driving strong institutional cultures that will help ensure the abuse of children will be neither hidden, tolerated nor excused in Australia.”
 
“In accepting these recommendations today, it is our hope that the federal government’s responses and approaches will be at the highest possible threshold of child protection, that they will be coordinated and consistent across states and territories, and that they will extend to institutions operated by the non-government sector,” Mr Stuart said.
 
Mr Stuart said that, at this early stage, UNICEF Australia and others need to consider the impacts of the recommendations that haven’t been accepted as part of the government’s response. However, he took the opportunity to note that responses that focussed on screening and pre-employment checks, for identifying people who are unsuitable to work with children, would not be sufficient to address the risk factors that institutions themselves pose to children.
 
“We must see a commitment from the federal government to focus on preventative strategies, policies and processes that reduce the opportunities to offend and increase the chances of offenders being caught - as far as possible, government’s must legislate these changes,” Mr Stuart said. “The bottom line is that children do not belong in institutions - they are inherently unsafe environments.”.
 
He said the evolution of a national redress scheme, to which all states and territories have now committed, had been a very positive development since the Royal Commission handed down its recommendations.
 
Mr Stuart also noted that, by implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the Australian Government has signalled a commitment to its international obligations to protect children from all forms of violence and exploitation.
 
UNICEF Australia is currently conducting a national consultation with children to hear about their concerns, which will form the basis of a report to the United Nations in November. With this in mind, Mr Stuart noted that taking action for children, and protecting children, means listening to children in all the ways in which they communicate. So, it follows that we must ensure processes are in place which support children to speak out when they feel at risk or uncomfortable.
 
“One of the most important things uncovered by the work of the Royal Commission was the number of survivors who told of their experiences of speaking out about abuse they had been subjected to as children, and of not being listened to or believed,” Mr Stuart said. “For many of them, this was more devastating than the impact of the abuse itself.”
 
“Ultimately, keeping children safe is the responsibility of all of us,” he said. “The practical implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, and ensuring that the abuse and scale of abuse it uncovered no longer continues, certainly rests with government, but also with our institutions, the community and within our homes.”

For more information, please contact:
Brinsley Marlay, UNICEF Australia, 0403 604 182, bmarlay@unicef.org.au