What is a Royal Commission?

A Royal Commission is a special investigation into a matter of great importance. In this case, it is the sexual abuse of children within Australian institutions.

Terms of Reference were established and six Commissioners were appointed on Friday, 11 January 2013 by Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM is the Chair of the Royal Commission and the other five Commissioners are Mr Bob Atkinson AO APM, Justice Jennifer Coate, Mr Robert Fitzgerald AM, Professor Helen Milroy and Mr Andrew Murray. Visit Our Commissioners to read their full biographies.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating how institutions like schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission is about uncovering where systems have failed to protect children to make recommendation on how to improve laws, policies and practices. It can look at any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children.

On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission will present a Final Report covering its investigations to the Governor-General. The Final Report will make recommendations that aim to support and inform Australian governments, institutions and the general public in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. In addition the Final Report will document, for the public record, the experiences of people affected by this abuse. The report will be many volumes and cover areas including:

  • Understanding the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts
  • What was learnt from private sessions
  • Child safe institutions
  • Findings about institutions
  • Interventions and treatment for children with harmful sexual behaviours
  • The need for advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services
  • Redress and civil litigation
  • Criminal justice system.

Once the report is submitted to the Governor-General, it will be subsequently tabled in the Australian Parliament by the Government and then be made public. It is up to the Australian Governments and institutions to decide what actions will be taken regarding the Royal Commission’s recommendations. The report will be available publicly online after it is tabled.

Justice Peter McClellan introduces the Royal Commission

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