Royal Commission Response Update: 2018 Reports from Australian Jurisdictions and Major Religious Institutions (Part Two: States and Territories)

Published
21 March 2019

Following on from last week’s School Governance article which summarised the key components of the 2018 Commonwealth Government’s Annual Progress Report on its implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission), this week we summarise the key components of the 2018 government progress reports from most state governments and the Australian Capital Territory Government that are relevant to non-government schools. (Note that as at 21 March 2019 neither the Victorian or Northern Territory government has published an annual progress report.) Next week we will summarise the 2018 progress reports by some of the major religious institutions.

Choose your jurisdiction:

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Queensland

South Australia

Tasmania

Western Australia

ACT

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory’s Annual Progress Report 2018

Child Safe Standards

The ACT has spent 2018 consulting with stakeholders to determine the current regulatory landscape and to identify the readiness of various institutions to implement the Child Safe Standards as recommended by the Royal Commission. It will consider, over 2019, options for the independent oversight body that will monitor implementation of the Child Safe Standards.

With respect to non-government schools, the Education Act 2004 (ACT) was amended in November 2018 to require non-government schools to comply with criteria prescribed by regulation in order to be registered for, or renew their, registration. The Education Regulations 2005 (ACT) were also amended and now require that the school must, through a representative of the non-government school sector, work with the Minister to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

The ACT anticipates that these requirements will enable the development of regulations to implement child safe standards in schools, in consultation with the non-government school sector over 2019.

eSafety

The Teacher Quality Institute (TQI) is creating a policy that will require initial teacher education programs to include awareness of safe learning environments for children including resources developed by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

The ACT is also working with other jurisdictions on the national curriculum standards and online safety through national forums and working groups.

Author’s note: We therefore anticipate that further work in this area will occur over 2019.

Preventing and responding to children’s harmful sexual behaviours

The Child at Risk Health Unit (CARHU) provides specialist therapeutic services to children, young people and their families or carers in the ACT and surrounding areas that have been affected by abuse and/or neglect. CARHU also offers therapeutic services for children 10 years of age and under who have exhibited sexualised and sexually harmful behaviours. The CARHU reports increasing demand for their service, particularly from teachers who identify children with concerning behaviours.

Canberra Health Service and the ACT Health Directorate are currently considering how to respond to this demand and the Royal Commission’s recommendation regarding therapeutic services for children engaging in problematic sexual behaviour.

Author’s note: We therefore anticipate that there may be further developments over 2019.

Mandatory Reporting

The ACT has a publicly available guide for mandatory reporters. A broad scope of professions is subject to mandatory reporting, including teachers, psychologists and school counsellors. It has engaged a consultant to report on whether to expand mandatory reporting to people in religious ministry, with the report due in January 2019.

Author’s note: Therefore, over 2019, look for further developments on the interaction between mandatory reporting and the confessional seal.

Reportable Conduct

The ACT Reportable Conduct Scheme commenced on 1 July 2017. Organisations included in the scheme include non-government schools. From 1 July 2018, the ACT scheme was expanded to include religious institutions providing pastoral care and religious instruction, although – until 31 March 2019 – allegations of reportable conduct that are divulged during religious confession are excluded from the scope of the Scheme.

Further legislative amendments are anticipated in 2019 to enhance the operation and administration of the Reportable Conduct Scheme and align the scheme to the recommendations made by the Royal Commission.

Author’s note: Over 2019, further developments on the interaction between the Reportable Conduct Scheme and the confessional seal are also expected.

Information Sharing

Amendments to the Education Act 2004 (ACT) in November 2018 enable the Director General of the Education Directorate to share information with other state and territory education authorities about whether or not a child is receiving an education within the ACT. The Reportable Conduct Scheme also improves the ability of prescribed bodies to share information with each other.

Further legislative amendments are anticipated in 2019 to enhance the operation and administration of the information sharing aspects of the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

The ACT is also collaborating with other jurisdictions to:

  • identify and remove barriers to information sharing and to develop methods to promote and enable information sharing
  • implement interjurisdictional child protection information sharing protocols.

Author’s note: The ACT acknowledged in its report that there is more work to be done to improve information sharing within the ACT and between jurisdictions. Therefore, over 2019, there could be further developments on information sharing about child safety and wellbeing.

Teacher Registration

In mid-2018, the ACT made submissions to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s National Review of Teacher Registration Discussion Paper, addressing child safety. That review has been completed and the COAG Education Council will now consider an implementation plan, likely to occur over 2019.

In November 2018 the Teacher Quality Institute Act 2018 (ACT) was amended to strengthen reporting requirements, enabling the TQI to obtain information or advice from a teacher’s employer and improving access to information about the status of a teacher’s Working with Vulnerable People registration.

Record Keeping

The ACT Government Territory Records Office is working with other jurisdictions to develop guidance for both government and non-government institutions on the identification, retention and management of records relevant to alleged child abuse incidents.

Author’s note: Therefore, there could be further developments over 2019.

Trauma informed practice within schools

The Education Directorate focused on delivering professional learning and training on trauma informed practice to schools and staff over November and December 2018.

Working with Children Checks

The ACT is currently undertaking consultations on changes to its Working with Vulnerable People Scheme, which was reviewed, and a report provided in late 2017, in response to the Royal Commission’s Working with Children Checks Final Report. These changes include national harmonisation (including a five-year registration period instead of three years), considering introducing disqualifying offences and improving information sharing.

The ACT is also collaborating with other jurisdictions to develop nationally consistent standards that align with the ACT Working with Vulnerable People Scheme.

The ACT anticipates legislative amendments to the scheme in 2019.

Redress

The ACT was one of the first jurisdictions to opt in to the National Redress Scheme, and non-government institutions in the ACT can join the scheme.

Civil Litigation

In response to the Redress and Civil Litigation Final Report, in 2016 the ACT removed limitation periods for civil actions resulting from child sexual abuse in institutional settings. In May 2017, limitation periods were removed for all claims for compensation for all forms of child abuse.

In August 2018, the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT) was amended to enable unincorporated bodies to nominate an entity to act as defendant in proceedings for child abuse claims, to enable a court to make an order appointing a related trust as a defendant, and to allow trustees to apply trust property to meet liability for child abuse.

Further civil law reforms will be introduced throughout 2019.

Criminal Justice

In February 2018, the criminal law was amended to include new grooming offences (grooming of a child or of people with authority for a child, such as a parent), to remove consideration of an offender’s ‘good character’ during sentencing if the ‘good character’ enabled them to commit the offence, and to make offences for persistent sexual offences more effective.

In October 2018, further amendments were made to introduce the ‘failure to protect’ offence for institutional child abuse and to change sentencing provisions so that they meet current sentencing practices.

Further criminal law reforms will be introduced throughout 2019.

Author’s note: This may include consideration of a failure to report offence.

NSW

New South Wales

New South Wales’ Annual Progress Report 2018

Child Safe Standards

The NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) is to consult with affected sectors on implementing Child Safe Standards and to develop a scheme for the regulation of Child Safe Standards in organisations. The OCG will also continue to provide training, resources and support to institutions to implement child safe policies and practices.

Over 2019, NSW expects to introduce a regulatory system for Child Safe Standards.

Author’s note: It now appears that the OCG will be the independent oversight body for the implementation of Child Safe Standards in NSW organisations.

eSafety

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Preventing and responding to children’s harmful sexual behaviours

NSW is establishing New Street services in Wagga Wagga and Lismore, which provide specialist treatment services for children aged 10 to 17 who display harmful sexual behaviours. Over 2019, NSW will further expand these services and will improve access to specialist support to children aged under 10 with problematic sexual behaviour.

Mandatory Reporting

NSW expects to make some legislative amendments to the mandatory reporting scheme during 2019.

Author’s note: It is possible that this could include amendments relating to mandatory reporting by those in religious ministry.

Reportable Conduct

NSW expects to make some legislative amendments to the reportable conduct scheme during 2019.

Author’s note: It is possible that this could include changes to the oversight body for the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

Information Sharing and Teacher Registration

The NSW Department of Education and the NSW Educational Standards Authority are working with other agencies, jurisdictions and the non-government school and early childhood education sectors on new initiatives to improve the safety and wellbeing of children in educational settings. NSW expects to make some legislative amendments during 2019 to improve information sharing practices.

Author’s note: In 2019, these initiatives may include nationally consistent teacher accreditation legislation and improved interjurisdictional information sharing practices between jurisdictions.

Record Keeping

NSW expects to make some legislative amendments during 2019 to improve record keeping practices.

Trauma informed practice within schools

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Redress

NSW was one of the first jurisdictions to opt in to the National Redress Scheme, and non-government institutions in NSW are now able to join the scheme.

Working with Children Checks

NSW is working with the Commonwealth and other states and territories to develop national standards for Working with Children Checks. NSW’s scheme is already aligned with the proposed national standards.

Civil Litigation

In 2016, NSW removed limitation periods for civil compensation claims for child abuse.  In 2018, NSW passed further legislation to implement the Royal Commission’s civil litigation recommendations in full. The new “proper defendant” reform commenced on 1 January 2019 and allows all child abuse survivors to sue the organisations in which they were abused, even if the organisations do not have corporate status or legal personality. Those organisations must appoint a “proper defendant” with sufficient assets to satisfy a child abuse claim.

The legislation also established two clear pathways for survivors of child abuse in the future to sue organisations in which they were abused. These reforms:

  • impose a statutory duty on organisations to prevent child abuse, such that organisations will need to demonstrate that reasonable steps were taken to avoid the abuse in order to avoid liability (this makes it easier for survivors to succeed in proving that organisations are liable for their abuse)
  • increase the scope of vicarious liability laws, so that organisations can be held vicariously accountable for abuse committed by employees and people who are akin to employees such as volunteers and clergy.

Criminal Justice

A number of changes to the criminal law occurred in 2018. Two new offences of ‘failure to report child abuse’ and ‘failure to reduce or remove a threat of child abuse’ (i.e. ‘failure to protect’) commenced on 31 August 2018. Amendments to sentencing provisions now require consideration of current sentencing standards and community understanding of the lifelong impacts of trauma and abuse.

A number of additional criminal justice reforms commenced on 1 December 2018, including:

  • a maximum life sentence for the offence of persistent child sexual abuse
  • a new offence of grooming an adult to access a child
  • a strengthened offence of grooming a child
  • procedural changes to remove the statutory limitation period that had prevented some survivors from accessing justice for crimes committed against them in their past.

QLD

Queensland

Queensland’s Annual Progress Report 2018

Child Safe Standards

Queensland has now accepted the recommendations for Child Safe Standards in full and they will inform best practice for Queensland Government departments. These departments will, over 2019, continue to identify how to enhance their policies and practices to ensure that they incorporate and align with the Child Safe Standards. Queensland will examine the relationship with existing requirements and quality assurance frameworks.

Author’s note: Over 2019, it is therefore possible that the Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy requirements may change to reflect the Child Safe Standards.

eSafety

The Queensland Government recently announced a financial commitment to implement the Alannah and Madeline Foundation eSmart cybersafety framework in 500 Queensland state schools. eSmart is a set of educational tools on bullying and cyberbullying for principals, students and parents. This program is also available, for a fee, to non-government schools.

Preventing and responding to children’s harmful sexual behaviours

Queensland has committed $12 million over four years from 2018-2019 for actions to respond to youth sexual violence, including additional trauma-informed counselling and support for abused young people, and place-based youth sexual violence trials. Locations and models for the service enhancement component are being considered.

Mandatory Reporting

Queensland is considering the Royal Commission’s recommendations regarding mandatory reporting requirements in the context of broader reforms that are being undertaken in response to state-based inquiries and reports.

Author’s note: Therefore, over 2019, further developments could occur.

Reportable Conduct

The Queensland Government has committed to introducing a nationally consistent Reportable Conduct Scheme. An issues paper was released by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in 2017 and that, in conjunction with discussions with Reportable Conduct Schemes in other jurisdictions, will be used to develop the Queensland scheme.

Author’s note: Therefore, over 2019, further developments could occur.

Information Sharing and Record Keeping

Amendments to the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) to improve information sharing arrangements within Queensland commenced on 29 October 2018.

Amendments to enable child protection information sharing with other jurisdictions commenced in January 2018, and further improvements to nationally consistent information sharing with other jurisdictions were explored over 2018.

Author’s note: Therefore, over 2019, further developments could occur.

Trauma informed practice within schools

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Teacher Registration

In September 2018, COAG’s Education Council noted recommendations made by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (ATSIL) in its report on the National Review of Teacher Registration, including those responding to the Royal Commission regarding improving national consistency for teacher registration requirements. ATSIL is currently consulting with stakeholders, including Queensland, on the implementation plan for all of the ATSIL report’s recommendations.

Author’s note: Implementation, or at least a plan for implementation, may occur over 2019.

Working with Children Checks

On 13 November 2018, the first of a series of legislative amendments to the Blue Card system were introduced to parliament, expanding the range of disqualifying offences.

Queensland has also accepted in principle an additional seven Royal Commission recommendations related to participating in the development and negotiation of national standards for Working with Children Checks. 

Author’s note: Therefore, further developments can be expected over 2019.

Redress

Queensland joined the National Redress Scheme on 19 November 2018, and non-government institutions in Queensland are now able to join the scheme.

Civil Litigation

On 15 November 2018, Queensland introduced legislation to provide a statutory framework for the identification of a “proper defendant” that can meet any financial liabilities incurred by the institution. The Amendment Bill would also impose a statutory duty on organisations to prevent the sexual abuse of a child.

Author’s note: Although not mentioned in the Progress Report, we note that, in 2016, Queensland removed limitation periods for civil claims for child sexual abuse.

Criminal Justice

Queensland has accepted or accepted in principle an additional 11 Criminal Justice Final Report recommendations, that do not require further implementation action.

Other than this, Queensland is continuing to analyse the criminal justice recommendations.

Author’s note: Therefore, further developments could occur over 2019.

SA

South Australia

South Australia’s Annual Progress Report 2018

Child Safe Standards

The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) is in full effect, putting a stronger onus on institutions to maintain child safe environments. Under the Act, certain organisations must ensure their environments are safe for children and young people, and lodge child safe compliance statements more regularly. This generally involves organisations reviewing and providing copies of their child safe environment policies at least once every five years. This requirement applies to all people and organisations that provide a service to children and families or undertake child-related work.

Further, South Australia is considering other recommendations relating to child safe organisations, including an independent oversight body responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Child Safe Standards. These recommendations will be considered as part of a holistic approach to reforming the child safety system.

Author’s note: Therefore, further developments can be expected over 2019.

eSafety

South Australia is working with the Australian Government and states and territories through COAG’s Education Council on recommendations relating to improving online safety for children, including awareness-raising and an online safety school curriculum.

Preventing and responding to children’s harmful sexual behaviours

SA Health Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the Child Protection Service units provide specialist services to ensure timely expert assessment and therapeutic interventions. They also ensure that individual children with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours are provided with clear and established referral pathways to receive appropriate responses.

Child Protection Services at the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, through the Sexualised Behaviour Treatment Service, provides therapy to children two to 12 years of age and their families or carers where the major concern is problematic sexual behaviour and where recent sexual abuse has not been confirmed. The CAMHS Adolescent Sexual Assault Prevention Program provides free treatment for young people and their families where the young person has behaved in a sexually inappropriate or harassing manner or has committed a sexual offence. This program includes consultation with schools, residential youth services and youth health and welfare agencies regarding the prevention of sexual assault and harassment and establishing safe and respectful environments.

In addition, the Department for Education has comprehensive guidelines in place to manage sexualised behaviour and associated incidents, including a Social Work Incident Support Service.

Mandatory Reporting

The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) commenced in October 2018. This legislation names groups of people who are subject to strict mandatory reporting requirements, including social workers, police officers, educators, ministers of religion and medical practitioners. Under the Act, priests and other ministers of religion are subject to mandatory reporting requirements, even if they receive relevant information through a confession.

The Department for Child Protection’s Mandatory Reporting Guide was updated in August 2018, and training has been delivered to staff in government and non-government agencies. The department will next consider ways to create an interactive mandatory notifier guide to assist notifiers to complete an electronic notification of child abuse.

South Australian schools and children’s service employees must complete Responding to Abuse and Neglect – Education and Care training every three years. This training was collaboratively developed by the Department for Education, Catholic Education South Australia and the Association of Independent Schools of South Australia.

Reportable Conduct

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Author’s note: In its table of responses to specific recommendations, released in December 2018, South Australia advised that this recommendation requires further consideration by South Australia. It is possible that further developments could occur over 2019.

Information Sharing

The Education and Children’s Services Bill 2018 (SA), which was before State Parliament at the time of the Annual Progress Report, included new provisions relating to gathering and sharing information about children.

Author’s note: This Bill has now passed and the resulting changes to information sharing arrangements permit schools, preschools, children’s services and other relevant authorities to share prescribed information that would assist the performance of functions relating to the education, health, safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child, or to manage any risk to children for employers or providers of services.

In addition to this legislation, South Australia is working with states and territories through the COAG Education Council on a range of recommendations designed to enhance child safety in relation to schools, with a particular focus on information sharing.

The Information Sharing Guidelines are a framework for both government and non-government organisations in South Australia to share information on vulnerable or potentially vulnerable citizens, including on matters relating to sexual abuse. Further activity will occur during 2019 to reinvigorate the Information Sharing Guidelines within South Australia. Work will also continue with other jurisdictions to foster consistent information sharing.

Author’s note: Therefore, there could be further developments during 2019.

Record Keeping

In August 2018 the State Records Council set out new rules to prevent the destruction of any government records that relate to child sexual abuse, contained in a ‘disposal schedule’. In early 2019, disposal schedules for state and local governments will be updated so that records relating to child sexual abuse or alleged child sexual abuse must be kept for at least 45 years, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

State Records is drafting guidance on these record keeping principles and practical measures to help organisations establish and maintain appropriate record keeping processes. This will include guidance on how to identify relevant records. State Records will continue to work with other jurisdictions to support the development of national guidance in 2019.

Trauma informed practice within schools

South Australia has committed to trauma-informed practice in education as part of a four-year funding commitment to engagement and wellbeing in schools.

Teacher Registration

South Australia has taken action to improve the ability of the Teachers Registration Board to deal with unprofessional conduct of teachers.  The amendments allow the Teachers Registration Board to immediately suspend, or impose conditions on, the registration of a teacher charged with a serious criminal offence, including serious offences related to the safety of children. This removes any potential for a teacher to claim that they are a fit and proper person to work as a teacher while they are the subject of serious criminal charges relevant to the safety of children.

Author’s note: The Teachers Registration and Standards (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018 (SA), which amends the Teachers Registration and Standards Act 2004 (SA), was assented to in November 2018. These provisions have now commenced.

Working with Children Checks

In addition to existing child-related employment screening checks, South Australia is currently developing regulations to support the commencement of legislation that will strengthen Working with Children Checks and improve how people who wish to volunteer or work with children are assessed.

The government is also working with other jurisdictions on developing National Standards for Working with Children Checks.

Author’s note: Therefore, further developments can be expected over 2019.

Redress

South Australian legislation referring powers to the Commonwealth and enabling South Australia’s participation in the Scheme came into effect on 22 November 2018, and non-government institutions in South Australia are now able to join the scheme.

It is anticipated that further steps will be completed by early 2019 to allow survivors of South Australian government institutions to apply for redress though the scheme.

Civil Litigation

The Limitation of Actions (Child Abuse) Amendment Act 2018 (SA), passed in September 2018 and came into effect on 1 February 2019, removing the statutory limitation period for civil claims for child abuse.

Author’s note: Further developments in this area could occur over 2019, including consideration of:

  • a ‘duty to protect’ against institutional child sexual abuse
  • reversing the onus of proof such that institutions are liable for child sexual abuse by persons associated with the institution unless the institution can demonstrate that it took reasonable steps to prevent the abuse
  • a statutory framework for the identification of a “proper defendant” that can meet any financial liabilities incurred by the institution.

Criminal Justice

The South Australian Government considers that the majority of the Criminal Justice Report’s recommendations are already in place, underway or ongoing in South Australia.

Changes to the sentencing laws were passed by the State Parliament in June 2018 to better protect children from convicted child sex offenders who have been indefinitely detained. Indefinite detention orders are used in specific circumstances, such as when a sex offender has served their sentence or is eligible for parole but is still considered to be at high risk of reoffending. Under the new laws, an indefinitely detained person must show that they are both capable of and willing to control their sexual instincts before the court can even consider whether they should be released. The paramount consideration of the court must be the safety of the community.

The Criminal Law Consolidation (Dishonest Communication with Children) Amendment Act 2018 (SA) (Carly’s Law) came into effect on 13 August 2018, aimed at better protecting children from online predators. The laws target grooming and predatory behaviour at its early stages, allowing police to intervene sooner and imposing tough maximum penalties of five or 10 years imprisonment, depending on the offence.

Author’s note: Further developments could occur over 2019, including consideration of ‘failure to report’ and ‘failure to protect’ offences.

TAS

Tasmania

Tasmania’s Annual Progress Report 2018

Child Safe Standards

Over 2019, the Tasmanian Government will develop options for a child safe legislative framework in Tasmania that supports the intent of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and provides a plan for the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations relating to the Child Safe Standards Scheme in Tasmania.

eSafety

Preventing and responding to children’s harmful sexual behaviours

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Mandatory Reporting

As part of the new Strong Families, Safe Kids Advice and Referral Line, specific advice is being developed for mandatory reporters to support the new service. This service will also allow mandatory reporters to access expert advice regarding child safety concerns. This will occur over 2019.

Reportable Conduct

Over 2019, Tasmania will develop options for and provide a plan for the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations relating to a Reportable Conduct Scheme in Tasmania.

Information Sharing

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Record Keeping

Over 2019, the Office of the State Archivist will work with government agencies to increase minimum records retention periods, consistent with recommendations of the Royal Commission, meaning that relevant records (relating to child sexual abuse that has occurred or is alleged to have occurred) will be retained for a period 45 years. As a second stage, these requirements will also be applied to non-government institutions funded by the Tasmanian Government.

Trauma informed practice within schools

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Teacher Registration

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Working with Children Checks

Early 2018 saw the continued roll out of the Tasmanian Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Scheme and amendments to the legislation to facilitate national consistency between Australian jurisdictions.

Author’s note: Further developments in this area could occur over 2019.

Redress

Tasmania passed the legislation necessary to enable Tasmania’s participation in the National Redress Scheme, with participation commencing on 1 November 2018. It also developed a register of providers to determine the feasibility of state-delivery of Counselling and Psychological Care (CPC) services to support participation in the National Redress Scheme. Non-government institutions in Tasmania are now able to join the scheme.

Civil Litigation

Tasmania’s Limitation Act 1974 (Tas) was amended in mid-2017 to allow survivors of historical child physical or sexual abuse to take civil legal action against perpetrators of their abuse. These amendments commenced in late 2018.

Author’s note: The Annual Progress Report does not address the recommendations for a ‘duty to protect’ against institutional child sexual abuse, or a statutory framework for the identification of a “proper defendant” that can meet any financial liabilities incurred by the institution.

Criminal Justice

Prior to July 2018, amendments to Tasmania’s Sentencing Act 1997 (Tas) introduced statutory aggravating factors for crimes of serious sexual abuse and removed ‘good character’ as a mitigating factor for perpetrators of sexual abuse when that good character facilitated their offending.

As charges for statutory offences in Tasmania must be commenced within six months and as there is no time limit for indictable offences, in late 2018 the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines such that the summary offence of ‘Assault with indecent intent’ (section 35(3) of the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas)) cannot be charged in relation to child sexual offences.

Tasmania introduced legislation to give effect to a number of recommendations contained within the Royal Commission’s Criminal Justice Report including to:

  • establish a ‘failure to report’ offence for failing to disclose information in relation to child abuse crimes, including when information is learned by a priest in the confessional
  • amend grooming offences so that the crime of ‘Communication with intent to procure a person under the age of 17 years etc’ includes communications with third parties intended to procure a young person for child sexual abuse
  • amend the crime of ‘Maintain a sexual relationship with a young person’ to clarify that a jury must be satisfied that the unlawful sexual relationship existed but not of the same individual unlawful sexual acts.

Author’s note: the Criminal Code and Related Legislation Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill 2018 (Tas) was introduced on 28 November 2018. If passed, these reforms will likely come into effect over 2019.

WA

Western Australia

Western Australia’s Annual Progress Report 2018

Child Safe Standards

Over 2019, Western Australia will prioritise policy and program development for the implementation of the Child Safe Standards.

eSafety

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Preventing and responding to children’s harmful sexual behaviours

Over 2019, Western Australia will prioritise policy and program development for improving access to early intervention, appropriate assessment and therapeutic responses to harmful sexual behaviour in children.

Mandatory Reporting

Over 2019, Western Australia will increase the range of people obliged to report suspected child sexual abuse to improve national consistency and increase protection.

Reportable Conduct

Over 2019, Western Australia will design a reportable conduct scheme, where institutions are obliged to notify an independent oversight body of allegations or convictions of staff.

Information Sharing

Over 2019, Western Australia will contribute to a National Information Exchange Scheme to improve information sharing related to child safety between specified agencies, and improve information sharing across all WA schools.

Record Keeping

Over 2019, Western Australia will improve record keeping and retention in relation to child sexual abuse and build consistency of record keeping across all WA schools.

Trauma informed practice within schools

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Teacher Registration

Not addressed in the Annual Progress Report.

Working with Children Checks

Over 2019, Western Australia will prioritise improvements to the working with children check screening.

Redress

Western Australia’s participation in the National Redress Scheme will commence on 1 January 2019. From that date, non-government institutions in Western Australia are now able to join the scheme.

Civil Litigation

On 1 July 2018, Western Australia proclaimed the Civil Liability Legislation Amendment (Child Sexual Abuse Actions) Act 2018 (WA), which removed the limitation periods for civil actions by victims of child sexual abuse.

Western Australia advises that further consideration is required in relation to the implementation of Recommendations 89-93 of the Redress and Civil Litigation Report. These recommendations relate to a ‘duty to protect’ against institutional child sexual abuse and reversing the onus of proof so that institutions are liable for child sexual abuse by persons associated with the institution unless the institution can demonstrate that it took reasonable steps to prevent the abuse. A Discussion Paper on this issue is being finalised which will be circulated for stakeholder feedback. The input received on the matters addressed in the Discussion Paper will inform the WA Government’s response.

Author’s note: Therefore, further development in this area could be expected over 2019.

Criminal Justice

Over 2019, Western Australia will introduce a new criminal offence for institutions that fail to report suspected abuse, which includes information obtained during a religious confession.


Click here to read Part One of this series.

Click here to read Part Three of this series.

Deborah De Fina

Deborah recently completed five years working with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse where she assisted the Royal Commission to establish the Private Session process and subsequently managed its legal aspects. Prior to working with the Royal Commission, Deborah had her own successful consulting practice where she specialised in the statutory child protection system, legal issues facing children and vulnerable people, and legal aid. She also spent more than nine years at Legal Aid NSW, as a child protection solicitor, Senior Solicitor and then Solicitor in Charge, Child Protection. Deborah holds a Juris Doctorate from the Columbia University School of Law, a Master of International Affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a Diploma in Law from Sydney University.