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Will abuse commission be another damp squib?

  • 07 December 2017


Next Friday 15 December another Australian royal commission will report on how very badly some of Australia's once-respected institutions abused the trust of children.

On 14 December the commission will 'sit' to ceremonially end five years of public hearings, shocking headlines, hapless defences and interim reports and recommendations. Peter Fox, he whose outrage at the pact between his police peers and local church leaders to 'deal' with sex offenders in his town, has nonetheless been ritually reproved by his employers' chosen investigator as 'obsessed'. Such is the way of public life. Whistleblowing rules don't prevent whistle-blower retributive responses.

The commission has published recommendations for law reform, bundles of discussion papers, a collection of the voices of some of the victims and apologies by humiliated representatives of some of the ogres. One religious group has privately opined the result will be a 'damp squib'. But will it? Have we heard it all? Or enough?

No fear.

But will the five years of scandal make a difference to today's children, or tomorrow's?

No fear of that, either.

Consider this. Just a few months ago the Prime Minister authorised a royal commission into the treatment of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory after truly disgusting visual evidence of the bullying, humiliation and torture of very young children in prisons. The criticisms were upheld but the commission's searing findings and recommendations about the need to close Don Dale and other children's prisons and to stop over-policing of vulnerable Indigenous children was not met with a full apology. Indeed Alice Springs police decided to use military tactics to 'police' groups of Aboriginal 'youths' around the town at night, on the basis of their being 'suspicious' to white home owners. Why? Because they can.


"The cause of the misuse of power over children was our refusal to take a child's world view as seriously as our own adult priorities."


It seems that Australian institutions will not ever be empowered and encouraged to provide safety education and support to the Indigenous children and families who make up nearly 80 per cent of the prison population nationally. Children continue to languish in remand concentration camps or police lockups without being sentenced. Prison officers are picked on the basis of bodily strength. And the commission's recommendations, which are predicated on the 'Black Deaths in Custody' unimplemented report recommendations made more than 20 years ago, have not softened the public heart.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse