NSW Supreme Court judge Peter McClellan has been appointed to head a royal commission into child sexual abuse.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement as she outlined the details of the inquiry, which was approved by Governor-General Quentin Bryce on Friday.
Former WA Senator Andrew Murray will be one of six commissioners appointed to assist Justice Murray.
The inquiry will be expected to provide an interim report by the end of June 2014 and will wind up in December 2015.
Ms Gillard told reporters in Sydney the nation needed the royal commission because child sexual abuse in institutions was a “hideous, shocking and vile crime” and victims needed to be heard.
“It is clear from what is already in the public domain that too many children were the subject of child sexual abuse in institutions,” she said.
“And that too many adults who could have assisted them turned a blind eye so that they didn’t get the help that they needed.”
She believed the nation needed to have this royal commission.
Australia needed to have a royal commission so that a “very clear message” could be sent to child sexual abuse survivors, the Prime Minister said.
“For too many, the trauma of that abuse has been compounded by the sense that they had, that their nation doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about what they’ve suffered,” Ms Gillard said.
“To those survivors of child sex abuse, today we are able to say we want your voice to be heard, even if you’ve felt for all of your life that no one’s listened to you, that no one has taken you seriously, that no one has really cared.”
The royal commission was an opportunity for their voice to be heard, Ms Gillard said.
The Prime Minister said the Royal Commission would only focus on child sex abuse in institutional contexts.
“It will not deal with child sexual abuse in the family, it will also not deal with abuse of children which is not associated with child sexual abuse.”
Ms Gillard said the Royal Commission would provide advice and recommendations to the government “in as timely a way as possible”.
Assisting Justice McClellan with the Royal Commission will be former Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson, former Victorian president of the Children’s Court Justice Jennifer Coate, Productivity Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald, consultant psychiatrist Professor Helen Milroy and Mr Murray.
“(Mr Atkinson) brings over 40 years of policing experience to the Royal Commission, including 12 years as Police Commissioner,“ Ms Gillard said.
“Justice Jennifer Coate served for 20 years as a magistrate and county court judge in Victoria, including for five years as the President of the Children’s Court.
“(Mr Fitzgerald) has experience in commerce, law, public policy and community services, including as Community and Disability Services Commissioner and Deputy Ombudsman in New South Wales.”
Ms Gillard said Ms Milroy would provide extensive experience in child and adolescent health, including the mental health impacts of child sexual assault.
“Andrew Murray brings tremendous experience as a legislator and member of landmark Senate inquiries into children’s experiences in institutional care,” she said.
- Justice Peter McClellan: Chief Judge at Common Law of the NSW Supreme Court.
- Bob Atkinson: Former Queensland police commissioner.
- Justice Jennifer Coate: Family Court judge, former Victorian coroner and first Victorian Children’s Court president.
- Robert Fitzgerald: Productivity Commission commissioner, former NSW deputy ombudsman.
- Professor Helen Milroy: academic and consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist.
- Andrew Murray: Former Australian Democrats senator, patron of the Care Leavers Association and Alliance for Forgotten Australians.
THE TERMS OF REFERENCE
Six commissioners will examine past and current child sexual abuse in organisations. They will look at:
- How organisations have managed and responded to claims of sexual abuse and other associated forms of abuse and neglect.
- Whether the response was enough.
- What can be done better protect children under their care.
- What should be done to identify child sexual abuse and encourage people to report it.
- How organisations should respond when they find out information that suggests that sexual abuse of children under their responsibility.
- Barriers and failures to reporting, investigating and dealing with cases of child sexual abuse in organisations.
- How these barriers can be removed.
- How to support survivors.
- How to ensure victims receive justice.
- Commissioners can look at any public or private organisation that is or has been involved with children.
- Commission will hear from people affected by child sexual abuse.
- Also will look at archives, records and documents, submissions from public, non-government and private organisations, and laws, policies and practices of institutions, organisations and governments.