The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was completed in December 2017 and investigated the systemic failures of public and private institutions to:
The findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission are extensive, have a broad community impact and require careful consideration on how the reforms will be implemented to provide child safe environments in the future.
The State Government has committed to working on the reforms with the Commonwealth Government, other States and Territories, local government, non-government institutions (including religious institutions) and community organisations. In the second half of 2018, the State Government is developing a staged implementation plan that will identify priorities, approaches to reform, timeframes and resourcing options.
The department has commenced engagement with its key stakeholders and funded bodies to:
The department's engagement on the Royal Commission will cover key stakeholders and funded bodies from:
Consideration of the Royal Commission recommendations relevant to the Department is being supported by an Information and Discussion paper.
Feedback on the Royal Commission's findings and recommendations relevant to the department can be provided up to 31 September 2018 by emailing
Information and discussion paper
31 July 2018
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) was established in January 2013, to investigate systemic failures of public and private institutions* to protect children from child sexual abuse, report abuse, and respond to child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission's Terms of Reference required it to identify what institutions should do better to protect children in the future, as well as what should be done to:
* For clarity in this paper, the term 'institution' means any public or private body, agency, association, club, institution, organisation or other entity or group of entities of any kind (whether incorporated or unincorporated), however described, and:
The Western Australian Government (the State Government) strongly supported the work of the Royal Commission throughout the five years of inquiry, presenting detailed evidence and submissions and participating in public hearings, case studies and roundtables.
The Royal Commission released three reports throughout the inquiry: Working with Children Checks (August 2015); Redress and Civil Litigation (September 2015) and Criminal Justice (August 2017).
The Final Report (Final Report) of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was handed down on 15 December 2017.
Access a full version of the
Royal Commission's Findings and the Final Report.
The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations to prevent and respond to institutional child sexual abuse through reform to policy, legislation, administration, and institutional structures. These recommendations are directed to Australian governments and institutions, and non-government institutions.
Of the 409 recommendations, 310 are applicable to the State Government. The State Government examined the 310 applicable recommendations and provided a comprehensive and considered response, taking into account the systems and protections the State Government has already implemented.
The State Government has accepted or accepted in principle over 90 per cent of the 310 applicable recommendations.
The State Government's response was released on 27 June 2018 fulfilling the Royal Commission recommendation 17.1, that all governments should issue a formal response within six months of the Final Report's release, indicating whether recommendations are accepted; accepted in principle; not accepted; or will require further consideration.
WA Government's response to the Royal Commission recommendations can be accessed online.
The State Government has committed to working on the recommendations with the Commonwealth Government, other states and territories, local government, non-government institutions (including religious institutions) and community organisations.
Of the 99 recommendations that are not applicable to the State Government:
Some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission have already been addressed through past work of the State Government, and others working in the Western Australian community to create safe environments for children. This work is acknowledged and where appropriate, will be built upon when implementing reforms and initiatives that respond to the Royal Commission's recommendations.
The State Government recognises that everyone in our community has a role to play in preventing child sexual abuse. The State Government has called on local governments, non-government institutions and community organisations, including churches, religious schools, charities, and non-government social and welfare services, to match the State Government's strong commitment to progressing the Royal Commission's recommendations.
The information in this paper may contain material that is confronting and distressing.
If you require support, a list of available support services. The
Royal Commission's Final Report and other publications can be accessed online.
The findings of the Royal Commission are extensive and require careful and thorough consideration as to how implementation of recommended reforms will occur.
Reform will be a long-term commitment. Given the large scale and scope of the Royal Commission's recommendations, some reforms will be implemented in early phases, with others over a longer timeframe.
In the second half of 2018, the State Government will develop a staged implementation plan which will identify reform priorities, timeframes and resourcing options.
The State Government is determined to use resources efficiently and effectively and to prioritise reform work. In developing a staged implementation plan, the focus will be on ensuring the optimal allocation and use of existing resources to achieve the greatest benefits for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and for children, present and future, within Western Australia.
Additionally, the State Government will work in partnership with other states and territories, and the Commonwealth Government to progress recommendations identified as being national priorities.
There has already been progress with implementing some Royal Commission recommendations. A report on progress will be tabled in the State Parliament at the end of 2018.
Implementing recommended reforms that are aimed at keeping children safe, improving institutional responses, strengthening criminal justice responses, and providing restitution and reparation to victims of child sexual abuse, will require a coordinated and dedicated effort across all levels of government; local, state and the Commonwealth, together with a commitment from the non-government sector and community groups.
The breadth of the Royal Commission's recommendations confirms that keeping children safe is everybody's business.
The Royal Commission used an expansive definition of 'sport and recreation' to include: sport, recreation, exercise groups, dance, martial arts, cadets and other defence force activity for children, outdoor adventure groups, Scouts and Girl Guides, hobby groups, community groups, arts groups, crafts groups, cultural pursuits, musical pursuits, and tuition groups.
The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) accepts this broad definition as also reflecting our stakeholder organisations, as well as the broader community that our stakeholders operate in, support and deliver services to. This information and discussion paper focuses on the findings and recommendations in the Final Report relevant to DLGSC's stakeholders, funded bodies and the broader community.
DLGSC has commenced engagement with stakeholders and funded bodies to provide information and understanding of the Royal Commission, as well as to gather feedback that will be considered when developing the State Government's implementation plan.
DLGSC engagement will occur over two phases:
1. Inform (early to mid-August 2018): the key promise of this phase will be to provide stakeholders with detailed information regarding the Royal Commission's recommendations. The key aim/outcome will be that stakeholders have a greater understanding of recommendations and (potential) implications to further consider.
This phase will be underpinned by the distribution of this information and discussion paper, focused on:
These discussion prompts will be further explored during the consultation phase and can be, at the organisation's option, the trigger for a written submission to DLGSC.
2. Consult (mid-August to late-September 2018): the key promise of this phase will be for DLGSC to consult on the key recommendations highlighted in this paper that potentially impact on stakeholders, the industries and communities that they operate in, support and deliver services to. The aim will be that the feedback from stakeholders will be taken into account when developing the implementation framework.
The consultation phase will focus on the recommendations highlighted in this paper with presentations and briefings at select stakeholder events, meetings and workshops. A departmental representative will be available to answer enquiries at other events (where the agenda of the event may not be suitable for a presentation or briefing).
Key DLGSC contact details for further enquiries are provided at the end of this paper.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children in institutional contexts that had been emerging in Australia for many years.
The Royal Commission conducted their work through a combination of public hearings, policy and research, case studies, private sessions and community engagement.
This summary details extracts from the Final Report and focuses on the findings and recommendations published relevant to DLGSC, our stakeholder organisations and funded bodies, as well as the broader community that our stakeholders and funded bodies operate in, support and deliver services to.
The Royal Commission adopted a broad definition of sport and recreation, all reference to 'sport and recreation' in this summary accepts this definition, as no distinctions were provided in the Final Report.
The Royal Commission defined the 'sport and recreation' to include: sport, recreation, exercise groups, dance, martial arts, cadets and other defence force activity for children, outdoor adventure groups, Scouts and Girl Guides, hobby groups, community groups, arts groups, crafts groups, cultural pursuits, musical pursuits, and tuition groups.
From a broad sport and recreation perspective, the Royal Commission categorised the various institutional types that provided services to children into two main groups:
The definition of sport and recreation used by the Royal Commission extensively covers the sphere of operation for DLGSC (sport and recreation, arts and culture, multicultural interests and Aboriginal culture and history) and the setting (including local government and the broader community).
The Final Report does not consider what the broader industry related to 'sport and recreation' is currently doing in the child safeguarding area, rather presenting the findings and future considerations (some of which may already be actioned and / or in the process of implementation).
The past work of the State Government and others working in the community has already made a strong contribution to creating safer environments for children. This work is acknowledged and where appropriate, will be built upon when implementing reforms and initiatives that respond to the Royal Commission's Final Report.
The Royal Commission examined the nature and adequacy of institutional responses and drew out common failings. The recommendations made are aimed at preventing child sexual abuse from occurring in sport and recreation institutions and the community setting and, where it does occur, to help ensure an effective response.
The Royal Commission references the importance of volunteers and parent contributions stating that 'without their contribution, children's sport and recreation opportunities would be seriously curtailed'. This statement is paramount to all findings from the Royal Commission relevant to the industries that DLGSC operate and partner in. Also acknowledged is that most volunteers and parents contribute to sport, recreation and community activities with a genuine intent, goodwill and appropriate conduct.
The industry is heavily reliant from an operational perspective on parents and volunteers, and any recommendations should consider the practicality of implementation and the balance of responsibility and capability through this mechanism.
International, national and state legal and policy frameworks provide guidance and regulate the many different institutions that provide sport and recreation services to children. These include:
The Western Australian sport and recreation industry and community organisations are primarily guided by the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 which has always been promoted within a broad child safety context.
Other state and territories governments currently have different legislation that relates to child safeguarding.
Some of the measures most commonly used by sport and recreation institutions and the community to help mitigate the risk of child sexual abuse identified in the Final Report were:
The Royal Commission provided key insights into the background of institutional abuse, a research area that had previously been quite rudimentary.
These insights are important to help the industry appropriately understand the reasons why child sexual abuse occurs, as well as how best to prevent it and respond if it does occur.
Below is a summary of the Royal Commission's findings presented on a national perspective, gathered from the combination of public hearings, policy and research, case studies, private sessions and community engagement. It is unclear from the findings presented what information specifically relates to Western Australia.
Child sexual abuse can occur in a range of settings and contexts. Throughout the Royal Commission the following were identified as common places of abuse:
These settings and contexts have different enablers that have allowed sexual abuse to occur. The industry would need to collectively work together to help mitigate associated risks.
The term 'children with harmful sexual behaviours (HSB)' refers to children under the age of 18 years who have behaviours that fall across a spectrum of sexual behaviour problems, including those that are problematic to the child's own development, as well as those that are coercive, sexually aggressive and predatory towards others.
The Royal Commission received information about a small proportion of children who were abused by other children in a sport and recreations context.
While research is limited on children with HSB in sport and recreation, some studies suggest the sexual abuse and harassment of children by teammates and peers in sport is significant.
Children with HSB are not the same as adult perpetrators and do not necessarily go on to be adult offenders. Reponses need to be considered in context of the child experiencing the abuse, as well as the child engaging in HSB.
The Royal Commission identified grooming in sport and recreation as an issue in the sector. Common grooming strategies described included:
Sport and recreation institutions often have unique environments that they operate within and are often highly permeable to broader cultural influences.
The following characteristics can create risk factors for child sexual abuse:
Children who have a high level of involvement may be at greater risk.
The impacts of child sexual abuse can be devastating. The commonalities of child sexual abuse identified in sport and recreation contexts include:
An overview of the areas that the industry should consider and address to keep children safe were identified and are summarised below.
Common barriers that were identified by the survivors in disclosing their abuse include:
Future policy and education needs to consider these barriers in helping to create child safe environments.
A varied range of factors can lead to child sexual abuse including the following enabling factors in a sport and recreation context.
The Royal Commission heard numerous scenarios as to how institutions responded to child sexual abuse including:
Where an investigation was conducted, it was often initiated after considerable delay and handled in an inappropriate or insensitive manner.
Action was not taken immediately, and failed to adequately assess and manage the risk, enabling the alleged perpetrator to have continued access to the children.
Small sport and recreation institutions faced particular challenges in handling complaints including:
These barriers and challenges should help formulate future policy and support to the sport and recreation industry, as well as the broader community to respond effectively to child sexual abuse disclosures.
This section details the key recommendations of the Royal Commission that relate to DLGSC, our stakeholders and funded bodies, as well as the broader community.
Importantly, while the State Government has provided an initial response to the Final Report, the implementation of reforms and initiatives that respond to these and other recommendations remain under consideration.
Consideration needs to be given to how reforms and initiatives may be applied, particularly noting the varying resources and capacity of organisations, as well as local context differences between states and territories, as well as metropolitan, regional and remotes areas.
The Royal Commission made a total of 409 recommendations and noted 'that for institutions to be safe for children, the communities in which they operate need to be safe for children. The whole nation can contribute to change to keep children safe'.
The Royal Commission believes the Commonwealth Government should oversee the development and implementation of a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse (recommendation 6.1) and that this work should be undertaken by a proposed National Office for Child Safety.
The Commonwealth Government accepted recommendation 6.1 and the National Office for Child Safety was established within the Department of Social Services on 1 July 2018.
The National Office for Child Safety will establish a mechanism in consultation with state and territory governments and non-government stakeholders to advise on the development and implementation of a strategy to prevent child sexual abuse.
The Commonwealth Government will prioritise collaboration with other jurisdictions to progress a new National Framework on Child Safety (Recommendation 6.15).
The new framework will focus on prevention, education, evaluation and cultural change.
The strategy will apply a public health approach to the issue.
The Royal Commission recommended (recommendation 6.2) that the national strategy encompasses several complementary initiatives that could contribute to change in communities, including:
*For clarity in this paper:
All institutions engaged in child-related work have a duty to keep children safe. The community expects that institutions will take appropriate steps to promote the safety and wellbeing of all children with whom they engage. This can be achieved by ensuring the best interests of the child are the primary consideration in their operations, that their cultures and practices create an environment that prevents abuse from occurring, and that, where abuse does occur, it is identified and responded to appropriately.
Institutions that engage with children who are vulnerable need to have rigorous measures in place to protect these children from abuse.
State Government oversight and regulatory mechanisms can support all institutions through assisting them to build their capacity to be child safe, and by monitoring and enforcing agreed frameworks and standards.
The Royal Commission made 51 recommendations relating to child safety within institutions. These recommendations are found in volume 6 of the Final Report (Making Institutions Child Safe); volume 13 (Schools); volume 14 (Sport, Recreation, Arts, Culture, Community and Hobby Groups); and volume 15 (Contemporary Detention Environments).
Thirty-six of these 51 recommendations apply to the State Government. The State Government accepts or accepts in principle all 36 recommendations.
The Royal Commission made 15 recommendations about making institutions child safe that do not apply to the State Government and are directed to the Commonwealth Government.
The Royal Commission's recommendation regarding child safe institutions, included:
To achieve this, institutions should implement the Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission.
The State Government has committed to work with Commonwealth and state and territory governments to develop a National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles) based on the recommended Child Safe Standards.
The National Principles are due to be endorsed by the Council of Australian Government (COAG) by the end of 2018 and will be used to improve child safety in all institutions that engage in child-related work in Western Australia.
Recommendations on institutional child safety also include that an independent oversight body be responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Child Safe Standards.
Consideration of how the Standards may be applied and how independent oversight could be implemented in Western Australia will be carried out in the remainder of 2018.
The State Government will take into account Western Australia's existing frameworks that exceed the proposed Child Safe Standards.
The Royal Commission made three key recommendations directly relating to the sport and recreation industry:
The ten Child Safe Standards developed by the Royal Commission (recommendation 6.5) set the benchmark against which institutions can assess their child safe capacity.
The standards are intended to provide a structured framework for institutions to assess and minimise or mitigate the range of risks that contribute to institutional child sexual abuse.
There is scope for the standards to be principle-based to allow flexibility and be incorporated into existing structures and practice.
The Child Safe Standards are the foundation of the nationally consistent approach proposed by the Royal Commission.
The advisory committee is proposed to be an information conduit between the different institutional types and the National Office for Child Safety. It is proposed to provide opportunities for representatives to share knowledge, insights and experience to influence better child safe policy and practice.
It is recommended that Play by the Rules is expanded and funded, so that resources are relevant to a more diverse range of sport and recreation institutions, including those delivered by the private sector.
The Royal Commission made one recommendation specifically for local government as follows:
This recommendation acknowledges local government as the closest tier of government to the community; one that frequently provides an expansive range of direct services, as well as information, support and guidance to community-based organisations and individuals.
*For clarity in this paper, the term 'legislation' means and includes acts and regulations.
The Working with Children Check is a screening strategy that aims to safeguard children by identifying people with the kinds of criminal histories that indicate they may pose a risk of harm to children, prohibiting them from engaging in certain types of work that involves children.
In Australia, all states and territories have a WWCC scheme.
Western Australia's WWCC scheme is compulsory in the State and the Indian Ocean Territories and includes an Expanded National Police History Check and consideration of any information relevant to whether a child may be exposed to risk of harm, should a person engage in child-related work. Applicants' criminal records in Western Australia are also monitored for the life of their card.
The Royal Commission makes recommendations for a nationally-consistent approach to WWCC legislation including that state and territory governments should amend their WWCC laws to:
The Royal Commission made 36 recommendations relating to WWCC's which appeared in the Royal Commission's Working with Children Checks report (released in August 2015).
Thirty-four of the 36 recommendations apply to the State Government. The State Government has accepted or accepted in principle 30 of these.
The State Government needs to give further consideration to four of the 34 applicable recommendations. The State Government supports the intent of the two recommendations that serious adult criminal history should, as a rule, result in the refusal of a Working with Children Card.
Not all serious criminal history, however, is indicative of a risk to children, and there are circumstances where discretion is appropriate and should be retained. This requires further consideration regarding national consistency and how the appeals process applies.
The recommendation to process Working with Children Card applications within five working days and no longer than 21 working days for more complex cases also needs further consideration to ensure the comprehensive behaviour assessment undertaken in Western Australia is not compromised.
Lastly, the State Government needs to further consider the recommendations regarding the full portability of Working with Children Checks to ensure the protections currently in place for children in Western Australia are not reduced
The Royal Commission's key recommendation in relation to other key legislation is:
The Royal Commission revealed that institutional child sexual abuse had been widely under reported where abuse was known or suspected.
A reportable conduct scheme is identified as the only model for independent oversight of institutional responses to complaints of old child sexual abuse and neglect across multiple sectors. The scheme also obliges the oversight body to monitor institutions' investigations and handling of allegations.
The Royal Commission made 100 recommendations related to redress and civil litigation, 99 of which appeared in the Redress and Civil Litigation report (released in September 2015) and one civil litigation recommendation which appeared in the Criminal Justice report.
The Royal Commission recommended:
Under a nation-wide redress scheme, survivors could seek an ex-gratia payment in recognition of sexual abuse suffered within an institution, a personal apology and access to therapeutic counselling.
The Commonwealth Government announced in November 2016 that it would establish a redress scheme for survivors who were abused in Commonwealth institutions.
At this time, the Commonwealth also announced that other governments and non-government institutions (such as religious institutions) could join the scheme by opting in.
Through the establishment of the National Redress Scheme, the Commonwealth Government decided how it would progress the recommendations of the Royal Commission regarding redress.
The State Government has agreed to join the National Redress Scheme and has accepted or accepted in principle all 69 recommendations relating to how governments implement the Royal Commission recommendations about redress for survivors of child sexual abuse.
However, the State Government acknowledges that several National Redress Scheme elements, as established by the Commonwealth, differ from the recommendations made by the Royal Commission recommendations about the maximum payment under the scheme, and the delivery of counselling and psychological care under the scheme.
Applications under the National Redress Scheme are open and can be made any time before 30 June 2027.
Individuals can apply to the National Redress Scheme if:
National Redress Scheme information is available online.
Distress and trauma suffered by survivors can be exacerbated by delays in or failures to identify and respond to risks and incidents of child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission made recommendations aimed at improving the handling of complaints by institutions and establishing independent oversight of complaint handling by certain institutions.
When risks or incidents of child sexual abuse are identified, it is important that these are reported promptly and that these reports lead to swift, consistent and appropriate responses that minimise the trauma to the survivor. Procedures for reporting need to be simple, reliable and supportive. Reporting and responding roles need to be clearly defined and well understood. To assist reporting and responding, accurate recordkeeping, responsive procedures for accessing records and effective information sharing are crucial.
The Royal Commission made 40 recommendations about institutional responding and reporting, recordkeeping and information sharing. All 40 of these recommendations apply to the State Government. The State Government accepts or accepts in principle 36 of these recommendations. The Royal Commission recommended:
Of the 40 recommendations, 17 relate to responding and reporting institutional child sexual abuse. The State Government has accepted or accepted in principle 13 of the 17 recommendations as set out in the Final Report.
The State Government needs to give further consideration to four recommendations related to reporting and responding. Two of these recommendations relate to blind reporting and two relate to expansion of mandatory reporting.
Blind reporting is the reporting of an allegation of sexual abuse without revealing the identity of the victim. These recommendations require further consideration to explore the range of issues and consult with the wide range of stakeholders involved.
The Criminal Justice Report also explores whether and how reporting offences should apply to institutions, or officers of institutions, and if they should be subject to reporting obligations backed by the Crimes Act or Criminal Code.
Recommendations around failure to report refer to offences where the person fails to report to police when they know, suspect or should have suspected that an adult associated with the institution was sexually abusing or had sexually abused a child.
A failure to protect offence focuses on preventing child sexual abuse rather than reporting abuse that has occurred to police. It can apply to action taken or not taken before it is suspected that a child sexual abuse offence is being or has been committed.
Reporting requirements under failure to protect and failure to report cannot be considered in isolation. Thought will be required as to how they interact with other reporting mechanisms including mandatory reporting and reportable conduct.
Of the 40 recommendations, 23 relate to recordkeeping and information sharing. The State Government accepts or accepts in principle all 23 recommendations.
The Royal Commission directed recommendations about records retention periods and adherence to a set of record keeping principles to 'all institutions that engage in child related work'.
The State Government commits to examining how legislation can be amended that will mandate non-government organisations to comply with the same record keeping standards that State Government agencies are bound to comply with under the State Records Act 2000 (WA).
Section 2 of this paper focuses on Royal Commission recommendations that directly impact on DLGSC's stakeholder organisations, as well as the broader community that our stakeholders operate in, support and deliver services to with the aim of providing child safe environments.
Further consideration of the (potential) impacts of these recommendations is commenced in this section, with understanding needed to inform the implementation of reforms in a Western Australian context.
The Royal Commission made three key recommendations for the sport and recreation industry (this includes sport, recreation, arts, culture, community and hobby groups).
It is the recommendation of DLGSC that further consultation with the industry occurs to inform the State Government's implementation framework planning. Consultation is required to understand and to determine the feasibility of the different (potential) approaches to implementing Child Safe Standards, how different approaches could work in a localised Western Australian context and what support and resources would be required with each approach.
Child Safe Standards: discussion points
*For clarity in this paper, the term:
National sport and recreation child safety advisory committee: discussion points
Play by the Rules: discussion points
The Royal Commission made a key recommendation that with support from governments at the national, state and territory levels; local governments should designate child safety officer positions from existing staff profiles to carry out the following functions:
It is the recommendation of DLGSC that further consultation occurs with WALGA, LG Professional WA and all Western Australian local government authorities to inform the State Government's implementation framework planning.
Consultation is required to understand the types and areas of local government operations that may be impacted by the designation of child safety officers and how these positions may be called on to support the community with child safeguarding, as well as the training, resources and support required to be successful in a localised and varied Western Australian context.
Local government: discussion points
The Royal Commission recommended that state and territory governments should:
The Royal Commission had in essence, recommended the streamlining of the scope of which individuals require a WWCC.
Ultimately improvements to and clarity within legislation (and the policy parameters) is essential to interpret, apply and comply with the WWCC for the sport and recreation industry.
Additionally, it is essential in this recommendation to acknowledge the volunteer nature of sport and recreation; containing people with varying knowledge and capability.
Legislation: discussion points
The Royal Commission recommended that:
Record keeping and information sharing: discussion points
The contents of this information and discussion paper includes extracts from the following identified sources. Information has been extracted and summarised to focus on key aspects applicable to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries' key stakeholders and funded bodies:
For more information, please contact:
Gordon MacMileDirector Strategic Coordination and DeliveryEmail:
firstname.lastname@example.orgDepartment of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries246 Vincent Street, Leederville WA 6007PO Box 329, Leederville WA 6903Telephone: 61 8 9492 9700