Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and child sexual abuse in institutional contexts

Patricia Anderson, Muriel Bamblett, Dawn Bessarab, Leah Bromfield, Sharni Chan, Gabriel Maddock Karen Menzies, Margaret O’Connell, Glenn Pearson, Roz Walker and Michael Wright

July 2017

ISBN 978-1-925622-29-4

Executive Summary

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commissioned the Telethon Kids Institute to collaborate on a report examining the question of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s past and contemporary vulnerability to child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. The research team was guided and supported by the advisory group and the Royal Commission’s Aboriginal Knowledge Circle.

The report addresses the following questions developed by the Royal Commission and advisory group:

  • In the past, were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at risk of sexual abuse in institutions?
  • What have been the impacts of past racist legislation, policies and practices on the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and in turn the risk of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being placed in contemporary institutions?
  • In the present day, are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at risk of sexual abuse in institutions?
This research draws on multiple sources of evidence.

The research team drew on the substantial expertise, knowledge and experience of the advisory group. The research team and advisory group worked together in an iterative process of reviewing material and filling gaps in existing evidence. While the research team could only draw on material that has been documented and evidenced, they acknowledge that there is much evidence that is oral and much work needed to be done to overcome the inherent bias in the kinds of accounts that make up the historical evidence base. Both the advisory group and the Aboriginal Knowledge Circle provided cultural governance over this project and were also critical in contributing their knowledge of oral histories so that the researchers could go back and look for documented evidence of events.

The research team also reviewed national and state inquiries that addressed, in whole or part, the past and present vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to physical, emotional and sexual abuse.