THE Victorian Parliamentary
Inquiry into child sexual abuse has recommended significant state
legislative changes in its final report, Betrayal of
Trust, which was tabled in Parliament last week.
The recommendations include
the compulsory reporting of child sexual abuse to police, and
creating two new offences: a child-endangerment offence, and a
grooming offence. The proposed child-endangerment offence would
make it a criminal offence for people in authority knowingly to put
a child at risk, or fail to remove a child from that risk. The
report does not, however, recommend changes to the law that
protects the seal of the confessional.
The report has also
recommended that organisations that receive government funding or
tax benefits should be incorporated and insured, so that they could
be sued by victims. To date, attempts at suing Churches,
particularly the Roman Catholic Church, have failed because they
are not incorporated. The report also recommends excluding child
abuse from the statute of limitations, to make it easier for
victims to sue Churches.
The report singled out the
RC Church for particular criticism, saying that senior leaders of
that Church had "trivialised the problem"; contributed to abuse's
not being disclosed before the 1990s; kept the community of
Victoria uninformed about abuse; and "en-sured that perpetrators
were not held accountable". This had had the "tragic result" that
children continued to be abused when this could have been
The RC Church's past
handling of the matter showed that it was an organisation "at high
risk of its personnel perpetrating criminal child abuse", the
report said. Other Churches shared many of the features that made
the RC Church vulnerable, it said, but it did not single out other
named Churches for similar criticism.
Georgina Crozier, a member
of the Legislative Council and the Parliamentary Secretary for
Health, who chairs the inquiry committee, described the RC Church's
behaviour as a "betrayal beyond comprehension". Its leaders saw
child abuse as a "short-term embarrassment", she said.