Australia's royal commission calls for mandatory child sex abuse reports

By Daniel Uria  |  Dec. 15, 2017 at 12:07 AM
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Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse called for a systemic change in the reporting of child sex abuse in its final report on Thursday.

The 189 new recommendations include a mandatory, uniform system for reporting sex abuse for all people working closely with children including religious ministers, out-of-home care workers, childcare workers, registered psychologists and school counsellors.

"There is no simple explanation for why child sexual abuse has occurred in a multitude of institutions," the final report stated. "However, we have identified a number of ways in which institutions may, inadvertently or otherwise, enable or create opportunities for abuse."

The commission found the greatest number of alleged perpetrators and abused children were in Catholic institutions and several of its recommendations focused on the church.

It recommended ministry of all religious churches should not be exempt from reporting information discovered in religious confession and encouraged the Australian Catholic Church to request permission from the Vatican to make celibacy voluntary for its clergy.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher warned that changing confessional practices would actually be harmful to children.

"I think any proposal to effectively stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians and I don't think would help any young person," Fisher said. "I think if young people are to be kept safe, focusing on something like confession is just a distraction."

The commission also suggested external psychological testing of candidates for religious ministry and a national register to help institutions identify people in pastoral ministry that may pose risks to children.

It also suggested a policy to permanently remove any person in religious ministry who is the subject of a substantiated complaint of child sexual abuse or convicted of an offense relating to child sexual abuse.

The commission also called for a new National Office for Child Safety, a website and helpline to report child abuse and a new criminal offense to prosecute institutions that fail to protect children.

The 17-volume report was compiled after 57 public hearings and 8,000 private sessions and 1,200 witnesses. In all the committee made more than 2,500 referrals to authorities including police.

"The sexual abuse of any child is intolerable in a civilised society," royal commission chair, Justice Peter McClellan, said. "It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are being abused. We must each resolve that we should do what we can to protect them."

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