A national law firm that has acted for hundreds of victims of sexual abuse today welcomed the release of the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and the announcement of highly qualified commissioners.
Slater and Gordon General Manager, Hayden Stephens, said the broad terms of reference announced today would give the commission significant scope to perform its role and examine sexual abuse in institutional settings.
“This Royal Commission is a once in a generation opportunity to expose the cultures that have allowed such horrifying abuse to take place and to see comprehensive steps taken to prevent such abuse in the future,” Mr Stephens said.
“It is appropriate the commission examine the systems that failed to protect children and to recommend how we can improve laws, policies and practices in the future.
“Given the extremely complex nature of the issues, we welcome the announcement of six commissioners with varying skills and experience.
“The inclusion of an academic and consultant psychologist with a deep knowledge of the impact of child sexual abuse and the inclusion of a commissioner with personal experience as a child migrant are particularly welcome.
“We also welcome the Government’s decision to amend legislation to allow the commission to take evidence in both formal and informal settings.
“A number of the child migrants who suffered sexual abuse while in institutional care represented by Slater and Gordon in the 1990s were unable to read or write, and for them traditional, formal modes of giving evidence were extremely confronting.
“We believe that when the Commissioner's deliberations get underway it is critical they consider the significant barriers to justice and recommend the removal of legislative protections that form the cornerstone of defence for organisations such as the Catholic Church and Christian Brothers Order.
“These Institutions currently enjoy the benefits of corporate status, for tax land purposes and perpetual succession of property, but avoid corporate tort liability for the acts committed under their roof."