Child sex abuse in Australian institutions far more than expected

The scale of child sexual abuse in Australian institutions is far wider than expected, a royal commission has reported.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its interim report to government on June 30.

So far the commission has received allegations of child sexual abuse in more than 1000 individual institutions.

More than sixty percent of these were faith-based, with more than two thirds of those being Catholic.

Writing in The Guardian, Adam Brereton noted that “child abuse in Australia has a distinctively Roman Catholic character”.

The report records that 87 per cent of alleged abusers were male, and 29 per cent of those were clergy.

The commission says child sexual abuse in institutions is widely under-reported, despite legal obligations.

Its report notes that: “The Royal Commission wants to find out why there have been a significant number of perpetrators in certain institutions.”

Brereton took this as a reference to the Catholic Church in Australia in particular.

He wrote that a picture emerges of the commission as a “contest between two organisations, two competing ways of structuring the world, two ways of approaching suffering”.

These are “a hyper-competent, receptive, victims-focused commission; and an inwardly-looking, hierarchical and obstinate church”.

The royal commission’s report noted that institutions that operate with accountability only to themselves pose significant risks.

It also says mandatory reporting laws across Australia are inconsistent and many people are unaware of their responsibilities under those laws.

Although it has not yet made any recommendations, the commission is looking closely at compensation schemes for victims.

The royal commissioners have asked for a two-year extension, suggesting they deliver their final report in December, 2017.

They said such an extension would allow them to conduct an extra 3000 private sessions with abuse survivors and 30 more public hearings.

The extra hearings are essential to fulfil its terms of reference, the commission says.

Attorney-General George Brandis has said the Australian government is considering the request for an extension.

So far, the commission has referred more than 160 matters to police.


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