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This report is the fifth and final 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 reflects the government’s continued work to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. The government is acting so that past harms are not repeated. The government is also committed to ensuring that victims and survivors are supported, and that they are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The Victorian Government welcomed the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report in December 2017 and published its response to all the recommendations on 11 July 2018. The Victorian Government has previously published four Annual Reports regarding these recommendations:

In keeping with the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the Victorian Government has now published five reports on its progress in implementing recommendations of the Royal Commission from 2018 to 2022.

Overview of reforms in Victoria

The Victorian Government was well placed to respond to the Royal Commission’s recommendations which followed reforms to implement recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry Betrayal of trust: inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations (Betrayal of Trust inquiry). This landmark inquiry shone a light on the appalling abuse of children by adults who were entrusted into their care and the devastating consequences that followed from abuse. The findings and recommendations, handed down by the inquiry in 2013, fell under three broad themes: prevention, response and access to justice. The findings of the inquiry have continued to inform the reforms adopted by Victoria in response to the Royal Commission.

The Victorian Government has enacted transformational reform in how the state prevents and responds to child sexual abuse. Fundamental to this reform work is making clear the moral and legal obligations all Victorians have to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. This has informed all elements of criminal, civil, regulatory and other reform work done to respond to the Royal Commission and has been applied across the community, from professionals to volunteers, government and non-government organisations.  

Victoria now shares information with other jurisdictions, across government and between non-government organisations to screen workers and volunteers working with children, exchange best practice skills and advice in child safety and support non-government organisations to uphold their obligations to protect children from sexual abuse.

In 2021, the government updated its Child Safe Standards to create 11 new standards, including a national first standard on Aboriginal cultural safety. The Child Safe Standards require organisations involving children and young people to implement policies, procedures, and practices that keep children and young people in their care safe. These standards apply to an estimated 50,000 organisations across Victoria. 

The Victorian Institute of Teaching now has greater powers to request and disclose information from relevant authorities about registered teachers in order to carry out its regulatory functions, including to promote the safety and wellbeing of a child or group of children. Victoria’s Reportable Conduct Scheme has also been expanded to capture more education settings including early-childhood and kindergarten, overnight camps and after-hours care.

The Victorian curriculum now includes education on consent, relationships and sexuality at primary and secondary school levels. This education helps to model healthy interpersonal relationships and can be a safeguard against sexual abuse. The government has also funded local organisations and specialist services to deliver community-based consent education.

Victoria continues to provide access to evidence-based and effective therapeutic treatments for victim survivors of child sexual abuse. The Victorian Government has expanded specialist sexual assault services for victim survivors, including an expanded Sexual Assault Crisis Line, and interventions for children and young people displaying sexually harmful behaviours.

Reforms to criminal laws have improved perpetrator accountability and changed how the courts and judicial officers support victim survivors and witnesses through the criminal justice process. These reforms included new criminal offences aimed at better protecting children from known offenders and creating a legal obligation to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse to police.

Substantial investment has been made into the closed circuit and audio-visual links and equipment used in Victoria’s courts. Staff in the Supreme, County and Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria have been trained to use new equipment that will better accommodate the needs of victim survivors and witnesses taking part in criminal proceedings, including outreach so evidence can be given from someone’s home.

Victoria has also successfully implemented an Intermediary Program as recommended by the Royal Commission. Intermediaries are skilled communication specialists who facilitate communication with adults with cognitive disability, and children and young people. The Intermediary Program assists police, lawyers and the judiciary to plan their questioning so that victim survivors can understand, participate, feel more confident, and provide better quality evidence. The Intermediary Program continues to operate within the designated geographic scope and client eligibility set at commencement. This program was recently co-located with Victoria’s Child Witness Service.

The government has also implemented a suite of civil reforms to remove barriers to access justice in seeking compensation and redress. This includes closing an unfair legal loophole which prevented victim survivors from suing some organisations due to the legal status of the organisation. Amendments made through the Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018 require organisations, in the event they are sued for historic abuse to nominate a legal entity to act as a proper defendant in any proceedings and incur any relevant liability arising from child abuse. Victoria has also implemented reforms that allow a court to set aside a prior judgement or settlement in respect of damages for child abuse, if it is appropriate, allowing victim survivors access to more reasonable compensation than they had previously been awarded or settled for.

Victoria was also one of the first states, along with New South Wales, to participate in the National Redress Scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse. The scheme provides support to victim survivors via a monetary payment, access to psychological counselling and/or a direct personal response, such as an apology from the responsible institution (or institutions) for people who choose this. The government has also announced the establishment of a redress scheme for Victorians who experienced physical, psychological and emotional abuse or neglect while placed in institutional care prior to 1990. The new scheme is intended to build on supports available through the National Redress Scheme.

The Victorian Government is committed to continue working closely with the other states and territories and the National Office for Child Safety to implement national initiatives. Collaborative work to implement outstanding recommendations will continue, including through the action plans of the Australian Government-led National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030 (National Strategy). More information on national initiatives can be found in the sections on Making institutions child safe (Volume 6) and Recordkeeping and information sharing (Volume 8) and in the Australian Government's Annual Progress Report 2022

The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations across four reports, approximately 300 were directed to Victoria and other jurisdictions. By the end of 2022, the Victorian Government has acquitted 85% of its recommendations (see Figure 1 for further detail). Work continues on the remaining recommendations. Some of these relate to national initiatives, for example, under the National Strategy, and others relate to complex and ongoing work that in some instances has been impacted by COVID-19.

Figure 1. Implementation status of Royal Commission recommendations as at 31 December 2022

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Activity from reporting period and planned work

This report describes the actions that the Victorian Government has taken to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse during the reporting period of December 2021 to December 2022. It also describes work that the Victorian Government is committed to progressing, and work that is planned to build on these reforms.  

The Victorian Government continues to be a leader in implementing Royal Commission recommendations through several key reforms in 2022. Notably, Victoria’s new Child Safe Standards came into effect on 1 July 2022, building on the reforms implemented as part of the Betrayal of Trust inquiry and maintaining Victoria’s place at the forefront of protecting children.

In September 2022, Victoria passed the Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Act 2022. This Act introduced an affirmative consent model and strengthened protections available for child complainants in criminal proceedings involving sexual offences, as recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

In October 2022, the Victorian Government enacted the Monitoring of Places of Detention by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (OPCAT) Act 2022 in anticipation of the United Nations Sub-committee for the Prevention of Torture’s visit to Australia.

The Victorian Government continues to work with the Australian and state and territory governments to progress joint 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 2022