This week Senator Nampijinpa Price moved a motion in the Senate on Tuesday 17 October for Prime Minister Albanese to support the Opposition’s call for a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities. The motion was defeated by 5 votes, the final tally being 26 votes to 31.
While child sexual abuse is an issue in Indigenous communities, it is also far too prevalent across the country, with the latest statistics showing around 1 in 4 (28.5%) Australians have experienced child sexual abuse.
I consulted with advocates and experts, as well as First Nations elders in the ACT, and they were united in saying that what is needed isn’t another Royal Commission. A Royal Commission would take years to tell us what we already know from 42 inquiries and reports. I have been hearing that what we urgently need is the implementation of recommendations from numerous reports that have looked at this issue.
The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) said that, “another Royal Commission is not a solution. There have been more than 22 reports into allegations of abuse and neglect in our communities since the Bringing them Home report in 1997.” These reports aim to understand the extent of the issue, underlying causes, and recommend ways to address and prevent child sexual abuse.
Some common themes in recommendations that have not been implemented include:
- Investing more in prevention and early intervention to support families
- Increasing cultural safety of systems and services
- Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander roles in decision-making, system design and service delivery
- Increasing supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship carers
SNAICC has consistently called for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner with the legislated authority to investigate and make recommendations into issues that impact on the human rights of our children. A call that was echoed by all State and Territory First Nations Commissioner’s in September this year and supported by over 50 other organisations.
Work, and some additional funding, also commenced in the past year as part of the first ever dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan developed in partnership with First Nations Peoples as part of the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.
Here is a list of some of the notable reports on this issue:
- "Bringing Them Home" (1997)
- 1999 Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland
- Child Sexual Abuse in Rural and Remote Australian Indigenous Communities: A preliminary investigation – Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse - 2001
- 2002 Inquiry into response by government agencies to complaints of family violence and child abuse in Aboriginal communities (WA) (“Gordon Report”)
- Child abuse and family violence in Aboriginal communities | Australian Institute of Family Studies (aifs.gov.au) - 2002
- 2003 Review of Child Protection in South Australia (Layton Review)
- 2004 Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care (“Forgotten Australians”)
- 2004 Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commissioner inquiry into abuse of children in foster care
- 2004 The Territory as a parent: a review of the safety of children in care in the ACT and of ACT child protection management (Commissioner for Public Administration)
- 2006 Listen to the Children: Ombudsman Report (Tasmania)
- 2006 Report on Allegations Concerning the Treatment of Children and Young People in Residential Care, Ombudsman Western Australia
- 2007 NT Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse (“Little Children are Sacred”)
- 2007 Review of the Department of Community Development WA (Ford Report)
- 2008 SA Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry (Mullighan Inquiry)
- 2008 Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APA) lands Commission of Inquiry (SA)
- 2008 NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services
- 2010 Board of Inquiry into the Child Protection System in the Northern Territory
- 2010 Own Motion Investigation into Child Protection – Out of Home Care, Victorian Ombudsman
- 2011 Select Committee on Child Protection Inquiry (Tasmania)
- 2012 WA Special Inquiry Allegations of sexual abuse in hostels
- 2012 Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2013
- 2013 Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry
- Indigenous Child Safety 2014
- 2014 NSW Ombudsman Review of the NSW Child Protection System
- 2015 Inquiry into compliance with the intent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle in Victoria
- Stronger Safer Together Report 2016
- 2016 Child Protection Systems Royal Commission (SA)
- 2016 Systemic inquiry into services provided to Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care in Victoria
- "Changing the Picture: A National Resource to Support the Prevention of Child Sexual Assault and Sexual Exploitation of Children" (2016)
- 2017 Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory
- 2017 Royal Commissioner into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- 2017 Safe and Wanted: Inquiry into the implementation of amendments to the Children Youth and Families (Permanent Care and Other Matters) Act 2014 (Victoria)
- "Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council Family Wellbeing Services: Review of Service Delivery" (2018)
- 2018 House of Representatives Inquiry into Local Adoption
- 2019 Our Booris, Our Way Inquiry into the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in contact with child protection in the ACT
- 2019 Family is Culture, independent review of children and young people in OOHC in NSW
- 2022 SA Independent Inquiry into Foster and Kinship Care
- 2022 Inquiry into the effectiveness of the NSW child protection and social services system
- 2022 The extent of violence inflicted on adolescent Aboriginal girls in the Northern Territory
- 2023 SA Inquiry into Aboriginal children removal and placements
- 2023 Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings
The lack of implementation and follow through with recommendations from reports is of huge concern and something Australians should demand more focus on from governments. The recommendations from the 1992 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody still haven’t been fully implemented by successive Coalition and Labor Governments. The former government also defunded the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC) in 2014, a key group tasked with promoting community and social safety by reducing harm, supply and demand for alcohol and drugs among Indigenous communities.
I agree that we need more urgent action and will continue to push the Government on this. After consulting and looking further into this issue, I do not believe that a Royal Commission is the way to deal with an issue we already know so much about, especially given the major parties record of implementing recommendations is patchy at best.
Australians deserve action not another report.