A victim of church-related sexual abuse has hailed the tabling of the Victorian Parliament’s inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations as a “watershed” moment.
The report outlines 15 recommendations to end abuse, including the creation of new criminal offences for concealing abuse and endangerment.
The report also calls for the creation of an independent tribunal to hear abuse complaints.
Premier Denis Napthine has pledged to immediately start drafting legislation in response to the inquiry’s recommendations.
“We will act and act immediately to protect children in Victoria,” he said.
Abuse victims who were in the public gallery stood and hugged each other after the report was tabled.
A former school teacher, who lost her job after pursuing a sex abuse case, called it a watershed moment, while another victim said the tabling of the report is immensely important.
“To be standing here and to hear that people are now listening and taking it and saying, yeah this did happen and we’ll never let it happen again… it’s immensely important,” he said.
“There’s no words to describe the feeling,” he said.
Victim Stephen Woods welcomed the recommendation to make it an offence to fail to report child abuse.
“As we’ve discovered the cover-ups are as bad as the actual assaults,” he said.
Keith Broadbent of Geelong, another victim, hopes the report makes a difference.
“I’m just hoping that things do work out, that children are safe in the future wherever they be, whether at schools, sporting clubs, where ever,” he said.
Committee chair Georgie Crozier says they do not have exact numbers about how many people have been affected by child abuse but she says the ripple effect is “very widespread throughout Victoria.”
“We think that there are many, many people out there who may have not disclosed (their abuse),” she said.
“In our evidence that we heard, 23.6 years on average was the time for people to disclose.
“These are very significant timeframes. So we’re not really sure how many people out there have not disclosed.”
Ms Crozier says they know a lot of people have not come forward to reveal their abuse, but she wants them to know they are not forgotten.
“What we are hoping the victims will find from this is that our recommendations are looking at future protection,” she said.
“We can’t take back the past.”