For release: Monday, 16th December, 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has today congratulated the Queensland government for its decision to implement most of the 121 recommendations made by the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, strengthening the state’s child protection system.
ACL’s Queensland Director Wendy Francis says such government intervention is a necessary step in ensuring full protection of children at risk of significant physical and mental harm.
“What we’ve seen today is a win for children right across our state. The government’s decision to accept the recommendations means the safety and wellbeing of our most vulnerable children will be upheld.
“In particular, ACL welcomes the backing of the adoption of children from troubled homes, particularly those aged under three years,” Ms Francis said.
ACL has long advocated for the welfare and protection of children across the country.
In 2011, ACL commissioned the For Kids’ Sake report, which tracked the deterioration in the wellbeing of many children and young people – especially adolescent girls – in Australia over the last ten to 15 years, and examined the extent to which this is the result of the increasing fragility of Australia’s family life.
Premier Denis Napthine has said the government would act quickly to draft legislation in response to the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee Betrayal of Trust report.
The report’s recommendations cover five important areas: changes to the criminal law; easier access to the civil justice system; an independent, alternative avenue for justice; greater independent monitoring and scrutiny of organisations; and further improvements to
prevention systems and processes.
The Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart released a statement shortly after the report stating the Catholic Church in Victoria welcomed the findings.
The committee, which consisted of 6 members of parliament, received 486 submissions and held 33 public hearings between October 2012 and June 2013.
In the opening remarks of the report, Chairwoman, Ms Georgie Crozier MP said:
“The criminal abuse of children is unacceptable in any form. It symbolises a departure from morals that are the touchstone of our humanity and our society”
The report found the overwhelming majority of children participating in activities in religious and other non-governmental organisations or who are cared for by staff in those organisations are safe and derive great benefit from their involvement.
However, the report details the incidence of criminal child abuse “in some of society’s most trusted and respected institutions and organisations”
The report acknowledged that criminal child abuse has profound and lifelong consequences for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of victims and their parents.
During hearings (many conducted in camera) victims detailed horrendous and traumatic experiences while in the care of non-government organisations.
The committee heard many victims were not given the basic level of respect they expected and deserved. The Committee found that organisations often did not assume responsibility for the harm victims had suffered and sometimes even concealed the truth.
The Committee reported that the majority of evidence from victims indicated that between the 1950s and 1980s the response of specific organisations to criminal child abuse was seriously inadequate and sometimes non-existent, particularly in religious organisations.
The Committee made the following reform recommendations to the sector and to the Victorian Parliament.
The Committee emphasised the importance of organisational leaders developing cultures that protect children from criminal abuse. Requirements for organisations to manage “situational risks”, developing child safe policies with zero tolerance for child abuse and clear processes for reporting breaches were proposed by the Committee.
Reforms to the criminal law have been recommended, including creating an offence of:
- “grooming” of a child or the child’s family,
- “child endangerment”-imposing criminal responsibility where a person in authority, intentionally or recklessly fails to protect a child from harm or abuse, and
- “failing to report a serious indictable offence against a child”.
It has been recommended that limitations on time frames for victims to commence civil proceedings be abolished.
The Committee found that the current internal processes used by organisations to resolve complaints of sexual abuse does not meet the needs of victims in achieving justice and has recommended the creation of an independent, alternative tribunal to be funded by the catholic churches and non-government organisations.
The report represents extremely important work by the Victorian Parliament. The Committee’s recommendations should ensure that the scourge of institutional criminal child abuse is not repeated in Victoria.
You may read Executive Summary here.
For release: Friday, 12th April 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has welcomed new laws forbidding sexual relationships between young people and adults in positions of authority in the ACT.
ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace said the laws passed in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday night are a sensible measure to minimise the exploitation of vulnerable young people.
“People in positions of authority need to be held accountable for inappropriate sexual behaviour upon young people in their care,” he said.
“Attorney-General Simon Corbell should be commended for providing this fundamental protection for a vulnerable sector in our society.”
The new laws make it a criminal offence for an adult with responsibility for a young person to have a sexual relationship with them, even if they consent. This applies to teachers, foster or step-parents, counselors, health professionals, youth workers and sports coaches.
Those found to be breaking this law could be charged with two new offences of sexual intercourse and act of indecency.
For release: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has today welcomed an announcement by the Tasmanian government that it will invest more money into child protection, corrections and the National Disability Scheme (NDS).
The news came on the back of the unveiling of a stimulus package designed to create more jobs and boost the economy.
It included plans to increase spending on child protective services by nearly $36 million and $10 million for corrective services over the next four years. It also promised $6 million towards the NDS.
ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown has commended the government for its commitment to support the vulnerable and needy.
“We applaud the state government in channeling money to some of the community’s most needy - especially children.
“We have been particularly concerned with the past cuts to child protection on top of significant increases in the number of children in out of home care,” he said.
Mr Brown said that although it is a tough financial environment we must continue to ensure the most vulnerable in our community are prioritised.
“There are many sectors working with the most vulnerable who could do with extra help but this is a step in the right direction,” he said.
For release: Friday, November 9, 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby has said that the federal government’s announcement that it will require internet service providers (ISPs) to block a list of child abuse websites is welcome but falls well short of the internet safety commitment it gave prior to the last election.
In answer to ACL’s 2010 federal election questionnaire, the ALP committed to “introduce mandatory ISP level filtering of content that is rated Refused Classification”.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that while it was positive the government was enforcing the obligation of ISPs under the Telecommunications Act 1997 to block illegal child abuse websites on the INTERPOL list, this did not obviate the need for more widespread filtering of other harmful online content.
“Although child abuse material is the most heinous element of the Refused Classification category, it is just a part of the prohibited online content the government committed to blocking at the ISP level prior to the last election,” Mr Wallace said.
“Having ISPs block only illegal child abuse material does not meet the government’s cyber safety election commitment to mandatory ISP filtering of Refused Classification material.
“The government’s decision not to legislate to the full extent of its commitment is a great disappointment.”
Mr Wallace also said the fact that there are no reports of adverse impacts on internet speeds and congestion by the several Australian ISPs already blocking sites on the Interpol list for over a year made a nonsense of the scare campaign perpetuated by civil libertarians against ISP filtering.
It also proved that it was technically possible to block further harmful content where there was political will to do so.