The Commission is independent of the Tasmanian Government. It is equivalent to a royal commission and has the power to call witnesses at its hearings and compel the production of documents, including from the Tasmanian Government.
The Commission’s terms of reference (PDF, 190.0 KB) set out the purpose and scope of its inquiry.
Under its terms of reference, the Commission has been asked to inquire into what the Tasmanian Government should do to:
- better protect children against child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in the future
- achieve best practice in the reporting of, and responding to reports or information about, allegations, incidents or risks of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts
- eliminate or reduce problems that currently prevent appropriate responses to child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, including addressing failures in, and barriers to, reporting, investigation and responding to allegations and incidents of abuse, and
- address or alleviate the impact of past and future child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, including, in particular, in ensuring justice for victims through processes for referrals for investigation and prosecution and support services
The Commission has also been asked to inquire into the adequacy and appropriateness of the Tasmanian Government’s responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts generally, and in particular by:
- the Department of Education to allegations of child sexual abuse in Tasmanian Government schools
- the Tasmanian Health Service and the Department of Health to allegations of child sexual abuse, particularly in the matter of James Geoffrey Griffin, and
- the Department of Communities Tasmania to allegations of child sexual abuse at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
The Commission is not required to inquire into matters which have been sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by the Australia-wide Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse or by another inquiry, investigation or court proceeding.
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
As part of its five-year inquiry, the Royal Commission examined responses to child sexual abuse in Australia-wide public, private, community and religious institutions, and considered in detail child sexual abuse that happened in those institutions, and the inadequacy of the responses to such abuse, over many decades.
In 2017, the Royal Commission delivered its final report and made 409 recommendations aimed to make institutions safer for children, prevent child sexual abuse, improve identification and responses, and provide redress and better supports for victim-survivors. Those recommendations were informed by submissions from and consultations with members of the Tasmanian community, including two Tasmanian case studies and 188 private sessions in Tasmania.
This Commission intends to build upon, but not repeat, the work of the Royal Commission.
The focus of this inquiry
The Commission’s inquiry will focus on the Tasmanian Government’s current responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse in government institutions (e.g. hospitals, public schools, youth detention centres) and in non-government institutions where they receive funding from the Tasmanian Government to provide services on its behalf (e.g. out-of-home care).
Its primary focus will be on:
- The role and responsibilities of the Tasmanian Government and its agencies and officials in protecting children from child sexual abuse and responding adequately and appropriately to reports and information about such abuse.
- Child sexual abuse that has happened in Tasmanian government institutions. The Commission will not examine child sexual abuse within private or community institutions, such as churches, private schools, sporting organisations or local clubs, unless there are concerns about failures in Tasmanian Government responses to child sexual abuse or failures by institutions funded by the Tasmanian Government to provide services for children.
- Current responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse that has occurred since 2000 or was reported after 2000. The Commission will only examine historic allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse that predate 2000 where they throw light on current issues of concern about prevention, reporting and investigation of abuse now and into the future. It is a matter for the police to decide whether historic allegations should be investigated.
- Systemic issues and options for reform, rather than on investigation of individual cases. The accounts of individual victim-survivors will, however, enable the Commission to understand current practices and to develop appropriate recommendations for reform.
The Commission does not have any judicial powers and it has no power to prosecute any criminal or disciplinary charges. If, during the course of its inquiry, the Commission identifies any conduct which could give rise to a criminal prosecution or disciplinary matter, it is able to refer such matters to the appropriate authorities.