26 February 2019

Affirming the work of the Child Abuse Royal Commission

Posted in At-Risk / From the CEO's Desk / SU QLD

By Peter James, CEO SU QLD

‘Every child and young person matters deeply to God and deserves a safe and meaningful life’

[extract from SU QLD Values Statement]

In the year since the Child Abuse Royal Commission final report was released, [1] we have seen the beginnings of wide-ranging reforms we hope will change how communities and institutions ensure children are kept safe from sexual abuse.

As these changes take effect, we hope they will help bring healing, reduce the incidence of abuse, and ensure greater protection and better support for people who have experienced abuse.

These beginnings include:

  • important reforms to criminal laws and policing practices, in every state and territory, so that people who have experienced abuse and their families can have increased confidence in criminal justice processes that are kinder to people who have experienced abuse and more effective in the protection of children;
  • changes to state and territory laws for better oversight, coordination, information, and practices, and for a national child safety framework that is consistent across the nation; and
  • better information for institutions who care for children about how abuse happens, its effects for people who have experienced abuse, risk factors, and how institutions can keep children safe.

Of course, this is not a theoretical exercise in reform:  there are real lives at stake and the wellbeing of tens of thousands of people, both past abuse survivors and children in future generation to whom the community owes a sacred trust to get this right, and stamp out child sexual abuse.

Sadly, child abuse has been happening for generations and there are countless thousands of people who live every day as survivors of past abuse.  The Royal Commission heard more than 8000 of those stories, requiring great courage and determination for the survivors to recount their experience.  I have read hundreds of the case studies published by the Royal Commission: stories of the most egregious betrayal of trust, by those who should have protected and nurtured the child.

If you were abused and are suffering in silence, please get the support you need, rather than journeying alone.

I read one story of a 72 year old woman who wrote, ‘a lot of people seem to think, “Oh, you’re 72. Why would that still be on your mind?” But I mean, you’re reading it every day and hearing it on TV. Why wouldn’t it be?  … ‘Even now, I’ll have flashbacks and nightmares where I’m screaming out for help like as if someone’s coming in the night time to grab me or make me do things and I’ve never even told a GP because I’ve tried to act as normal as possible and just get on with life.’

It is impossible to read these accounts and not be moved.  But it is more than sympathy that is needed.  Real action is required to bring lasting change, so that the recommendations of the Royal Commission are implemented, and instances of abuse become something of the past.

SU QLD takes child protection very seriously and is adopting the recommendations of the Royal Commission, where not already embedded in our policies and procedures.  We have resolved to join the National Redress Scheme, established as a result of the Royal Commission.  While SU QLD was not named in the Royal Commission, the fact that our purpose is to work with children makes it possible that a future claim may arise, and we want to ensure that any people who have experienced abuse are acknowledged, supported and receive redress under the government scheme.

We want to play our part to ensure that every child can have a safe and meaningful life.

UPDATE: On 18 March 2020, SU QLD was accepted into the National Redress Scheme. Our decision to join the scheme is in keeping with SU QLD’s commitment to empowering and equipping our staff and volunteers to champion a child safe culture in bringing hope to a young generation.

[1] Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, presented to the Governor General on 15 December 2017.


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