Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

DOCUMENTS: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (18:10): I rise to speak on the motion to take note of government document No. 20, the interim report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The two volumes of that report were tabled earlier this week. It is important that we see what has happened in the royal commission and what their process has been. Most important, however, is the second volume of the report, which is about the individual stories of people who have had the courage to come forward to the royal commission to speak about their own life experiences. It is clear in the report from the commission that one of their key intentions was to ensure that the voices of people who had suffered the horrors of sexual abuse could be heard through the royal commission process-that they had the opportunity to tell people what had happened to them and to talk about the impact on their lives and on their families.

When the commission was instituted, it was the result of years of advocacy from people in our community. This was not just a royal commission instituted by the government of the day; it was a response to years of advocacy from people who had told what had happened. Many times they had not been heard. Many times their voices had not been strong enough. Many times the voices of the institutions they had worked within-or had been the victims of-had been much too powerful to allow the voices of the victims to be heard. After those many years of advocacy, we set up the royal commission, and there was great joy in the community when that happened.

But then the work began. Volume 1 of the interim report documents the way the commission set about doing the job. It outlines how, for the first time ever in a royal commission process, a series of private hearings were set up. Understanding the sensitivities of the issues being discussed and understanding the vulnerabilities of the people who had been victims-and of the friends and families of victims of sexual abuse-the commission has done something extremely important. Within the royal commission process, they have arranged for hearings where people could speak privately with the commissioners. The evidence from these private hearings, which may otherwise never have come to light, will now all be part of the final report of the commission. I think the idea of private hearings establishes a valuable model that other royal commissions in the future can look at when they are considering how they should operate. We now have a model that lends itself to helping individuals find the strength to come forward and have their voices heard.

The royal commission also has a public hearing process. There have been a number of public hearings and these have received great interest from the media. That is no doubt partly due to the horrific nature of these issues, but it is also, I think, an acknowledgement of the strength of the people who have come forward. The royal commission has also instigated a series of research projects linked to the issues the commission is looking at. These research projects will ensure that we learn and that we share knowledge about these issues. They will help us focus on the background to, the impacts of and the reasons for people getting caught up in sexual abuse. Some of those research projects have published papers, and a couple of roundtables have been held already on the issues covered by those research projects, issues such as safety checks in institutions and how to develop and strengthen regulations so that this kind of horror cannot occur-particularly in places which have been set up to provide safety.

One of the core elements of this report has been the request of the commission to the government that their work be allowed to be extended for a period of time. The last couple of pages of the report indicate why the commissioners believe there needs to be an extension of time and budget for the commission to fulfil its work. I have spoken in this place about my belief that this is an important element for all of us and that to not allow this commission to continue would be a betrayal of the very people for whom this commission was set up. I add my voice to the commissioners and to many others in the community who are saying we need to consider extending this time to make sure that we do have the evidence, to make sure that we do have the research and to make sure that we are able to look into the future about how the issues of sexual abuse can be identified and eliminated from any form of care in our society. That was the intent of the commission. We have the stories in volume 2 to consider, and we have a challenge to all of us to ensure that we see that this work is done. Many people, not only in Australia but internationally, are interested in the work of this commission. It is an extraordinarily valuable exercise. This is not an academic process. This is a way for us to be able to listen to people whose experiences are important and need to be acknowledged. We need to extend the commission. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.