Commission of Inquiry Into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
On 15 March 2021, the Tasmanian government established the Commission of Enquiry Into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings. The Commission will examine how adequate and effective the state government’s responses to reports of institutional child sexual abuse have been and make recommendations about how they could be improved.
The Commission is independent of the government and has the power to call individuals to give evidence at its hearings and to compel parties, including the government, to produce documents.
The Commission aims to build on the work of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which delivered its final report in 2017 and made 409 recommendations aimed at making institutions safer for children. Those recommendations were informed by submissions from and consultations with the community, including Tasmanians.
Terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
The Commission aims to establish what the Tasmanian government should do:
- to better protect children from sexual abuse in institutional contexts
- to achieve best practice in relation to the reporting of and responding to allegations, incidents or risks of institutional child sexual abuse
- to reduce impediments to responding appropriately to institutional child sexual abuse including obstacles to reporting, investigating and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse
- to address incidents of child sexual abuse in institutional settings including by ensuring justice for victims through processes for referral for prosecution and support services
The Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will have regard to the experiences of those directly affected by child sexual abuse in institutional settings, and the provision of opportunities for such people to share their experiences while recognising that many of them will be severely traumatised and/or have special needs.
It will consider the adequacy and appropriateness of the Tasmanian government’s responses to institutional child sexual abuse, including the Department of Education’s responses to allegations of abuse in schools, the Department of Health and the Tasmanian Health Service’s response to child sexual abuse and the Department of Communities’ responses to allegations of child sexual abuse at Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
The Commission will also take into account the need to focus on systemic issues, recognising that it may be informed by individual cases and changes to laws, policies, systems and practices that have improved responses to child sexual abuse over time.
Powers of the Commission of Inquiry into The Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
The Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is not required to investigate matters that have already been adequately dealt with by the Australia-wide Royal Commission, or by another inquiry or court proceeding.
The Commission does not have the power to prosecute criminal or disciplinary matters. If the Commission identifies conduct that could form the basis of a criminal proceeding, it can refer the matter to the authorities.
The Commission will be making recommendations for structural, policy, administrative and legislative reform.
The commission held its opening hearing on 26 October 2021 and will be recommencing hearings in May 2022 in Hobart and Launceston, after they were postponed due to COVID. The hearing will allow Tasmanians to hear evidence from academic experts, public servants and people with experience of the issues being examined, including victims and their families.
Provide information to the Commission
Victims and their supporters can register their interest in providing information directly to the Commissioner either in person or online. The information provided will be used to help the Commission to understand the gaps in the state government’s responses to child sexual abuse and to make recommendations to address them.
A person can attend a session with the Commissioner with or without a lawyer. They may also have a support person with them. A counsellor or psychologist will be available to support participants before and after the session.
A participant can choose to have a session conducted privately. If this occurs, the information provided will be treated confidentially.
Under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995, a person who provides information to the Commission is protected in the following ways:
- Their employer cannot dismiss or prejudice them because they have provided information not the Commission
- Others must not try to prevent them from providing information to the Commission
- Others must not punish them or cause them damage, loss or disadvantage because they have provided information to the commission.
Participants may claim the expenses associated with providing information to the Commission.
If you would like advice or legal support in relation to providing information to the Commission, or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.