Dialog Box

The Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia has changed the way we think about child protection and safety in organisational settings. 

We now know the true extent of what many children experienced, and continue to experience, in organisational settings. It is the responsibility of every organisation to understand the findings of the Royal Commission, and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, as well as how to apply and maintain them as part of their culture. 

That’s why we’ve provided a brief introduction to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the findings of the inquiry.

What is a Royal Commission?

A Royal Commission is an independent investigation into a matter of great importance. A Royal Commission is granted special powers to organise public hearings, call upon witnesses under oath and also compel evidence- much like a trial in court.

A Royal Commission’s key objective is to make recommendations in report form to the government on the matter at hand and what should be changed to prevent said matter occurring again.

When was The Royal Commission established?

In November 2012, the acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced her recommendation of an inquiry into institutional responses to child abuse to the Governor-General.

Over the next five years, the Royal Commission would create a report, ending with guidelines governing the safety of children and young people in care.

Why was The Royal Commission established?

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) was established in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children in organisations that had been emerging in Australia for many years (Royal Commission Final Report 2017).

At the end of the five-year enquiry, the Commissioners had listened to the personal stories of over 8,000 survivors, read over 1,000 written accounts and reviewed allegations of child sexual abuse in more than 4,000 institutions.

What did The Royal Commission into the sexual abuse of children find?

Organisations have failed to keep children and young people safe in their care.

The Royal Commission found that “the sexual abuse of children has occurred in almost every type of institution where children reside or attend for educational, recreational, sporting, religious or cultural activities” (Royal Commission Final Report 2017).

Some common findings that contributed to this include:

  • Poor practices
  • Inadequate governance structures
  • Failures to record and report complaints, or understating the seriousness of complaints
  • A culture where the best interests of children were not a priority.

What did The Royal Commission recommend to change moving forward?

The Royal Commission Final Report 2017 has emphasized that:

“protecting children and promoting their safety is everyone’s business. It is a national priority that requires a national response. Everyone – the Australian Government and state and territory governments, sectors and institutions, communities, families and individuals – has a role to play in protecting children in institutions.”

The Royal Commission resulted in 409 recommendations to make organisations safer for children. 

According to the report, what makes an organisation child safe?

Child safe organisations create cultures, adopt strategies and take action to prevent harm to children and young people.

A child safe organisation actively works towards:

  • reducing the risk of harm to children
  • creating an open environment where identifying and reporting harm is encouraged
  • responding appropriately to disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm.

What are the 10 Child Safe Standards recommended by The Royal Commission?

The Royal Commission has recommended that all organisations that have any contact with children must be compliant with 10 National Child Safe Standards (the Standards) as outlined in Volume 6, Making Institutions Child Safe

The 10 National Child Safe Standards, or The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations are:

  1. Leadership, governance and culture
  2. Children’s participation and empowerment
  3. Families and community involvement
  4. Equity and diverse needs
  5. Human resource management
  6. Child-focussed complaints focus
  7. Staff education and training
  8. Physical and online environment
  9. Review and continuous improvement
  10. Child safe policies and procedures

These Standards are a benchmark against which organisations can assess their child safe capacity and set performance targets for a best practice approach to child safety. The Standards are interrelated and work together to articulate a holistic approach to child safety. There are necessary overlaps between the Standards and they can be implemented alongside other standards.

The risk of child abuse varies from one organisation to another. Therefore, every organisation needs to consider each standard and take time to identify risks that may arise in their context and find ways to mitigate or manage those risks.

Learn more about The Royal Commission and its recommendations

If you’d like to learn more about the Royal Commission, its findings and what they mean for your organisation, you may wish to enrol in one of our online training sessions. 

We regularly run a training session which develops participants’ understanding of the Royal Commission, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and how to embed a culture of child safety at every level of your business. 

For more information and to register for a class, click here.