Thousands to testify in Royal Commission

This was an assessment piece for the University of Queensland whereby students were to source several different stories on a topic, and edit them into a cohesive article. I claim no credit for the text.

The chairman of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse says more than 5,000 people are expected to share their experiences with the commission.

Public hearings begin in Sydney tomorrow and the commission’s CEO Janette Dines says it will look “very broadly at institutions”.
“We’re looking at all sorts of institutions that have responsibility to look after children, and this week there are five institutions whose conduct will be examined,” she said.

They include Scouts Australia, a New South Wales Government department, the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service and its former head, Steven Larkins.

In his opening address to the commission’s first sitting at the Victorian County Court in Melbourne, Justice Peter McClellan said given the scope of the inquiry, it was unlikely the Federal Government’s December 2015 deadline would be met.

But he urged victims to remain patient as the commission begins its work.

“Although a painful process, if a community is to move forward, it must come to understand where wrongs have occurred and so far as possible, right those wrongs.”

– Justice Peter McClellan

The commission will have the power to set up a special investigative unit to liaise between the commission and police so criminal allegations that do arise are investigated and prosecuted quickly.

But the Government emphasises the commission’s task is to provide advice to government, not to make prosecutions.

Commission CEO Janette Dines says the public should prepare themselves for the shocking details.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response – 5,000 have called the royal commission and at least 2,000 of those have expressed interest in coming forward and talking to the royal commissioner,” Ms Dines said.

Child advocacy group Bravehearts says the commission’s terms of reference have delivered everything it had hoped for.

View the terms of reference here.

Its founder, Hetty Johnston, says it is a good day for victims of abuse.
“We’ve got absolutely everything we wanted and nothing that we feared we might get anyway,” she said.

“It’s almost like nirvana for us, reading through it, this is just brilliant, this is fantastic.”
– Hetty Johnston

“This is everything that we need to happen if we’re going to deliver Australia as the safest place to raise a child.”

The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council is the church body that will coordinate with the royal commission.

The council’s chief Francis Sullivan says he is “ashamed” of the way child sex abuse cases have been handled by the church in the past.
“Clearly there were cover-ups and clearly there were situations where the interests of the victims weren’t the number one priority,” he said.
“At the same time, the Catholic Church provides a massive amount of good in the community … and it would be a real shame if the slur of child sex abuse hung over the church for years ahead and all the good that occurs is undermined.”

Dr Cathy Kezelman from Adults Surviving Child Abuse says it is a very big undertaking.
“What we hear from people who have been engaged in private hearings, they’re feeling heard, they’re feeling respected and people are getting a chance to tell their story,” she said.
“They’ve had their feelings validated. That’s crucial for survivors.
“Survivors really struggle with trust so as they watch the commission unfold; more people will be coming forward. People who have worked in the industry are not shocked by the numbers sadly.
“It’s an enormous number of Australians who have been impacted.”

An interim report is expected in June next year.

View a webcast of the public hearing here.

How to contact the commission
Call 1800 099 340 between the hours of 8am and 8pm
Write to GPO box 5283, Sydney NSW, 2001
There is no cut off time to make a submission.

Sources: The ABC, The Herald Sun

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