Oversight and regulatory mechanisms aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse: Understanding current evidence of efficacy

Queensland University of Technology

April 2017

ISBN 978-1-925622-07-2

Executive Summary

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) is required to inquire into, among other things, ‘what institutions and governments should do to achieve best practice in encouraging the reporting of, and responding to reports or information about, allegations, incidents or risks of child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts’.

Across Australia, oversight bodies enable monitoring of aspects of child welfare, particularly for children in the care and protection system. For this report, the Royal Commission examined oversight bodies including ombudsmen offices (including children’s ombudsmen); reportable conduct schemes; children’s commissions; community visitors schemes; child advocates and children’s guardians; and crime and misconduct commissions. In some instances, these agencies facilitate oversight and responses to child sexual abuse; in other instances, this facility is an implicit or consequential aspect of their authority. These bodies differ across jurisdictions in their form, scope and power. In addition, various regulatory mechanisms exist in Australia. For this report, the Royal Commission has examined regulatory bodies including non-government schools’ accreditation boards; early childhood and care regulators; and medical sector regulators. In some instances, agencies’ express purpose is to prevent or minimise the likelihood of child sexual abuse; in other instances, this function is an implicit or consequential aspect of their authority. These bodies also have different features across jurisdictions.

The report then assesses the efficacy of these bodies in protecting children from sexual abuse, focusing on institutional contexts. To fulfil the aims of the study as stated by the Royal Commission, this report covers narrow efficacy and broad efficacy. The report has been informed by regulatory theory, and has used legal analysis, policy analysis and public health research methods, to review and analyse literature for its evaluative purpose. Appendix 2 explains in more detail the concepts of narrow efficacy and broad efficacy, and how they are measured. In sum, the evaluation of narrow efficacy explores the presence and nature of key requirements enabling the protection of children from child sexual abuse in institutional contexts; it does so through synthesis and doctrinal analysis. Broad efficacy is conceptualised as the effect in practice of the oversight or regulatory mechanism in protecting children from sexual abuse in institutional contexts. The evaluation of broad efficacy asks whether the oversight or regulatory body achieves the policy goal of improving protection of children from sexual abuse in institutional contexts. This is depicted in Table 1.1.