This report is the third Annual Report on the Victorian Government’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission). This report represents the government’s continued commitment to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The government is taking strong action to make sure no child is let down by the system, and the wrongs of the past are never repeated. The government is working hard to ensure the needs of victims and survivors are treated with the priority and support they deserve.

The Victorian Government welcomed the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report in December 2017. The Victorian Government response to all the recommendations of the Royal Commission was published on 11 July 2018. The Victorian Government’s first Annual Report was published on 6 March 2019 and the second Annual Report was published on 18 December 2019.

This report describes the action that the Victorian Government has taken to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse from December 2019 to December 2020. It also describes work that is in progress, and work that is planned to build on these reforms.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created significant challenges for everyone in the community. The Victorian Government has redirected some resources to respond to critical priorities, such as keeping all Victorians safe and healthy. The report discusses how programs and initiatives have been adapted to continue to provide critical services during the pandemic. The report also notes that some activities planned for this year have been delayed while the Victorian Government focuses on responding to the pandemic.

Despite these challenges, in this period, the Victorian Government has implemented several key reforms. For example, the Victorian Government introduced to Parliament reforms that empower Victoria to participate with other jurisdictions in the sharing of negative assessment information relating to a Working with Children Check and will ensure that any person refused a Working with Children Check interstate can be assessed appropriately if they apply for one in Victoria.

Important reforms are also underway to ensure the safe treatment of children and young people in the Youth Justice system. In May 2020, the Victorian Government launched the Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-30.

The Strategic Plan is committed to reducing reoffending through an improved diversionary system and responding to the unique needs of the children and young people who come in contact with this system.

The protection of children was also promoted through reforms introduced to Parliament to expand the powers of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority to regulate school boarding premises and ensure they are child safe environments.

The report also identifies actions that are planned for the future. This includes the implementation of the recommendations of the Child Safe Standards review, development and launch of Child Link that will facilitate information sharing between organisations to promote child wellbeing and safety, introduction of a Bill to make significant reforms to tendency and coincidence evidence in criminal proceedings, and work on reforms coming out of the Victorian Law Review Commission’s committal system review.

The Victorian Government continues to work with the Australian Government and state and territory governments to progress recommendations that require national action. Further information about the cooperative work between governments that is underway is available in the Australian Government’s Annual Progress Report 2020.

The Victorian Government is at the forefront of strong action to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The Victorian Government has implemented all of the recommendations of the landmark Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations, Betrayal of Trust (2013). The inquiry explored how religious and other non-government organisations in Victoria have historically responded to the possibility of criminal abuse of children in their care. The report of the inquiry made recommendations under three broad themes – prevention, response, and access to justice – and placed Victoria ahead of the curve in responding to the Royal Commission. The recommendations of the Royal Commission are instrumental in guiding further reforms to better protect children from abuse.

In keeping with the Royal Commission’s recommendation, the Victorian Government will publish reports on its progress in implementing recommendations of the Royal Commission every year until 2022.