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Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations
When will the final report be released?
The final report of the Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday 13 November 2013.
What does the final report look like?
The Committee’s role is to inquire into matters relevant to its terms of reference and then present back to the Parliament in the form of a written report. The report makes a number of findings based on the evidence gathered (from submissions, rights of reply, verbal evidence, research, requests for information and documents obtained from organisations). It also makes recommendations to the Parliament.
Once a report is ‘tabled’ or presented to the Parliament, the Victorian Government’s is required to respond to the recommendations in the Committee’s report within six months.
How can I get a copy of the final report?
An electronic copy of the report is available on the homepage of the Parliament of Victoria’s website www.parliament.vic.gov.au
If you have given evidence at a hearing or have made a written submission to the Inquiry, if we have your full mailing address you will be posted a hard copy of the report after it’s been tabled. If you would like to ensure we have your correct information then please send us your up-to-date contact details and include your
- Full name (incl title eg Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc)
- Mailing address – please ensure you remember to include the suburb and postcode
- Contact phone number
Post: Family and Community Development Committee, Spring Street, East Melbourne VIC 3002
If you did not give evidence at a hearing or make a written submission to the Inquiry but would like to register your interest in receiving a hard copy of the report, please send us your contact details (as above).
Given the number of people who will be receiving a copy of the report, it will take up to two weeks (possibly more, depending on the number of requests received) to get the hard copy reports in the post.
An accusation has been made against me, will I have the opportunity to respond?
Throughout the Inquiry, the Committee has been acutely conscious of the need to ensure that natural justice is accorded to all parties.
Where allegations have been made, the Committee seeks to verify information in a number of ways as appropriate. There has been a large number of emails, letters, meetings and phone conversations where the Committee has sought to verify, clarify or seek further information.
As a general proposition, one submission alone is unlikely to establish a sufficient basis to draw conclusions, particularly an adverse one. Accordingly, the Committee has ensured there are adequate reliable materials on which to make findings. This can sometimes be provided by a large number of independent credible submissions each supporting the same theme.
During the course of the Inquiry, the Committee has also given a number of individuals and organisations the opportunity to respond to allegations made against them, including at public hearings. Transcripts of all public hearings are available here.
Please note that the Inquiry is not undertaking a forensic investigation or looking at individual cases but rather is investigating systemic problems and failures.
Further information about the processed the Committee followed for right of reply submissions can be found here.
Why aren’t all accepted submissions automatically posted on the website?
The Committee has been focused on preparing its final report so it can meet its reporting deadline.
Every submission has been worked through from an investigatory, policing and legal perspective to analyse the content and appropriately deal with the information it provides to the Inquiry. Approving public and name withheld submissions for publication is a separate process which continues.
There are several possible reasons why a submission may not be published, for example:
- it may contain specific allegations or information relating to a current investigation or potential future investigation
- it may deal with information relating to current (or pending) matter before the courts
- submission has been made by someone other than the victims, where the victim has not consented to the information being made public
- it may require further review to ensure the Committee does not encroach on the responsibilities of investigatory agencies
- the information in the submission may lead to the identification of a minor (which is consistent with the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005)
- there may have been subsequent requests to make changes (including additions) to the original submission
- it may difficult to understand following extensive redactions due to multiple adverse reflections or inappropriate content in the submission
With such a large volume of material to work through it will take some time to complete the process. As the community would expect, the Committee has been focused on conducting a thorough inquiry, not a hasty one.
What are you looking for when reviewing submissions?
It is not within the terms of reference to investigate specific instances of abuse but rather to address how such cases were handled by various organisations. Specifically, the Committee seeks information which will assist to identify patterns of behaviour and provide insight into how the culture and processes of organisations either helped or hindered them to effectively deal with cases of abuse. Evidence relating to individual examples is crucial in the consideration of broader issues of how abuse was or was not effectively dealt with by organisations.
Although outside the terms of reference, the Committee recognises that it is important to follow up specific allegations of abuse to determine if they have previously been dealt with through the police and court process. Where the abuse has not previously been reported, the Committee has set up parallel processes to deal with these appropriately including protocols to refer matters to the Victims Support Agency and Victoria Police. With their permission, individuals will be contacted by appropriately qualified people who can talk to them about the support available and the steps involved in pursuing allegations further. For many individuals, providing a submission may be the first time they have disclosed the abuse inflicted on them and it is a key concern of the Committee that these disclosures are dealt with sensitively and appropriately by people with expertise in such matters.
Where evidence in some submissions falls outside the Inquiry’s terms of reference as the abuse happened interstate, the Committee is working with interstate agencies to ensure these people are also supported. Their submissions also provide useful background or contextual information to the Committee.
What happens if someone gives incorrect information to the Committee?
Any false or misleading evidence provided to a Parliamentary Committee is considered a contempt of Parliament which can have serious penalties.
How many witnesses have the Committee called to give evidence and how many submissions have you received?
The Committee has received 578 written submission including public, name withheld, confidential, supplementary and additional submissions requested by the Committee following in camera hearings.
162 hearing sessions have been conducted, 56 held in camera. This included hearing evidence from organisations from a range of religious and other non-government organisations in public hearings. The remaining hearings included sessions with victims, their families, whistleblowers, experts, and other professionals.
How many referrals have been made to Task Force Sano?
Victoria Police established Task Force Sano to investigate historic and new allegations that have emanated from this Inquiry. In total, the Committee has made 135 referrals to Task Force Sano.
What powers does the Committee have?
The Committee has substantial powers and privileges, the same or equivalent as a court, judicial inquiry or royal commission. It has the power to call for any witness to come before the Inquiry, to produce any and all documents and to answer questions relevant to the terms of reference. The Committee can issue a subpoena to require the attendance of any person before the Committee. The exercise of such powers is rare but the Committee will exercise them if necessary.
In addition, the Committee has powers relating to parliamentary privilege that extend beyond those of a court, judicial inquiry or royal commission. This is a key form or transparency, accountability and free speech in a democratic society and is unique to the Parliament. It allows members of Parliament and people presenting evidence to seek and speak the truth in a way that no other setting allows.
How will information be shared between this Inquiry and the Royal Commission?
The Premier has said that the Victorian Government will work to appropriately bring together the work of the Parliamentary Committee’s Inquiry and the Federal Royal Commission.