Chapter 18

Looking to the future

Introduction

Despite the profound and long-lasting effects of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, it is possible for people and communities to heal. Chapter 15, Perspectives on healing(opens in a new window), explored concepts of healing, and how people can heal from these impacts, both individually and as communities. It established that healing is a very personal, multidimensional experience, and there is no healing response that meets everyone’s needs.

To understand the targeted responses that would best support healing from historical child sexual abuse in government schools, the Board of Inquiry engaged with victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members, as well as academic experts, service providers, and the State.

While there is no single solution that would help everyone heal, Chapter 15(opens in a new window) highlighted four significant ways to contribute to healing:

  • providing opportunities for recognition, reflection and acknowledgement
  • ensuring people have safe spaces to share their experiences
  • ensuring there is strong accountability for historical child sexual abuse, including transparency about what happened and about what has been done since to prevent further sexual abuse
  • providing support services that can contribute to healing for victim-survivors.

Chapter 17, Support needs and challenges(opens in a new window), explored in more detail the role support services play in helping victim-survivors to heal, and identified specific areas where changes could be made to improve victim-survivors’ access to, and experiences of, support services.

In this Chapter, the Board of Inquiry sets out its nine recommendations. These take into account the objectives identified in the Order in Council that established the Board of Inquiry and the evidence and information the Board of Inquiry has received in the course of its work. Although the Board of Inquiry’s recommendations are most closely connected to clauses 3(d) and (e) of its Terms of Reference, they also build on and relate to clauses 3(a), (b), (c) and (f).

Healing requires a holistic approach. Accordingly, the Board of Inquiry has made recommendations that complement, build on, and interact with each other. Although each recommendation has its own value, the positive impacts may not be fully realised if they are implemented in isolation.

Recognising and acknowledging harm

Chapter 15(opens in a new window) explored how acknowledging child sexual abuse in government schools and addressing past institutional failings are powerful ways to support healing, at both an individual and community level. Ways to do this include delivering public apologies to victim-survivors and creating memorials to acknowledge their experiences. These public responses can provide a platform for other healing responses of a more private nature.

A public apology

Dr Hazel Blunden, Research Fellow at the Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, and colleagues usefully characterise public apologies as ‘a recognition that wrong has been done to someone and that the institution takes responsibility for that wrong’.1

It is becoming more common for institutions to make public apologies to people who experienced historical child sexual abuse while in their care.

On 28 June 2023, the then Premier of Victoria, the Hon Daniel Andrews MP, spoke at a media conference where he announced the Board of Inquiry.2 Mr Andrews said the Board of Inquiry would ‘culminate in a … full apology’.3 As part of that announcement, Mr Andrews said the ‘unique circumstances at Beaumaris Primary School’ and the establishment of the Board of Inquiry warrant:

a separate apology that acknowledges the unique and evil goings on at that school, at that time … we think doing that as a stand-alone acknowledgement — the most formal acknowledgement that we can make — is the appropriate thing to do.4

Both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments have made other apologies in recent years in relation to institutional abuse, but not specifically in relation to historical child sexual abuse in government schools.

On 8 February 2024, in a joint sitting of Parliament, the Hon Jacinta Allan MP, Premier of Victoria, apologised ‘unreservedly’ to the more than 90,000 people who were placed into institutional care as children between 1928 and 1990 (known as ‘Pre-1990 Care Leavers’ or ‘Forgotten Australians’).5 The Premier said to victim-survivors, ‘[y]ou have met silence with truth’ and ‘I do want your contributions recorded in the history of [Parliament]’.6

On 27 November 2019, during his time as Premier, Mr Andrews apologised in Parliament to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse linked to Puffing Billy, a well-known steam railway and tourist attraction.7 This followed a report from the Victorian Ombudsman in 2018 about volunteers who had used their position with the Victorian Railways, including Puffing Billy, to perpetrate child sexual abuse.8 Mr Andrews also committed to victim-survivors that ’we will not let this happen again’.9

On 22 October 2018, following the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission), then Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP made a national apology in Federal Parliament to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.10 Another former Prime Minister, the Hon Dr Kevin Rudd AC, apologised in Federal Parliament to Stolen Generations on 13 February 2008.11

The role of public apologies in supporting healing

For some, apologies can be part of an effective institutional response to wrongdoing.12 They are seen as a means to engage with communities that have been harmed, and to address the harm caused by the institution in the past.13 Apologies for historical institutional abuse have been described as ‘a potential means of acknowledging individual and collective wrongdoing, validating the suffering of victims, and furthering individual and societal healing by marking a symbolic break from the past’.14

However, some research suggests that while apologies can have ‘profound healing effects’, they are not always effective.15 The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations (often referred to as the Betrayal of Trust Inquiry) reported that many victim-survivors and their families felt that an apology that is not backed by action is inadequate.16

Bravehearts, an organisation that works with and advocates for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse, told the Board of Inquiry that while a ‘formal and public apology’ might be helpful for some victim-survivors, others may view it as tokenistic.17 Research also suggests that formal apologies can be considered insincere if they are required as a result of a formal process such as an inquiry.18

Dr Katie Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that views on apologies are mixed.19 Dr Wright said:

For an apology to be meaningful, it needs to be accompanied with action. I think an apology that is not meaningful is one where a politician might apologise but nothing is done, and that, obviously, is very difficult for victim-survivors and can ring a bit hollow, perhaps. So the more successful approaches appear to be where an apology is one part of a broader process of redressing what has happened in the past.20

Similarly, Professor Leah Bromfield, Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection and Chair of Child Protection, University of South Australia, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that apologies can be meaningful and contribute to addressing trauma, but can be harmful if they are not genuine and backed by action.21

For formal apologies made by government, acknowledgement of the wrongdoing is essential. However, the Board of Inquiry considers that a truly effective apology must go further and include a meaningful commitment to action.

Perspectives on the healing value of public apologies

The Board of Inquiry heard a range of perspectives from victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members about formal public apologies. While views were mixed, most people were supportive of a public apology. Some people who did not feel an apology would be valuable to them, personally, did not oppose one being made on the basis that other victim-survivors may find such an apology meaningful.

Some victim-survivors expressed a clear view that an apology would not be helpful to them. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that they did not want an apology because ‘the damage has been done’ and ‘what good is an apology if nothing changes’.22 A secondary victim said an apology would be problematic because an ‘apology is as apology does’, and any apology would need to be backed by action.23 One victim-survivor said that an apology would be hollow in the absence of their abuser being brought to justice.24 Another said that an apology from the State might be important to some people, but meant nothing to them; they considered making apologies to be a political process.25 An affected community member said that a public apology would make no difference to them.26

Emphasising the significance of action, one victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that an apology was less important to them than knowing that the Department of Education (Department) is working to address child sexual abuse in government schools in an ongoing way. However, they were comfortable with an apology, knowing that other victim-survivors in the community want one.27

Other victim-survivors thought that an apology would be helpful. A victim-survivor said they liked the idea of an apology, and that it would be helpful if victim-survivors had input into its wording.28

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that there should be an apology from the government, and that it should happen in Parliament.29 A further victim-survivor said that an apology was important for some people, but acknowledged that the people who would be apologising were not in the Department at the time the child sexual abuse occurred.30

One victim-survivor said they would like an apology from the State, with full recognition that what happened was not right.31 An affected community member said that a public apology from the State would be very healing for people.32 A victim-survivor said that an apology was necessary, and that a lot of people would feel better if an apology was made. However, they were concerned about how some people may be affected by an apology.33

A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that she thought apologies are very important and can be powerful. She described an apology as a way to acknowledge the truth and of not sweeping things under the carpet.34

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry he understood that for some, an apology would not do anything, but he was hopeful that it would give victim-survivors ‘somewhere to hang our burden’.35 He said, however, that an apology for victim-survivors of the child sexual abuse that occurred at Beaumaris Primary School would not go far enough, and that any apology could not be genuine unless the Department knew the full extent of historical child sexual abuse in government schools.36

Similarly, another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that a formal apology is important because it would give a voice to people who do not have one. He thought it is critical that an apology be made only once full details of the extent of child sexual abuse in government schools are known, and that the apology should be delivered in relation to all government schools, not just Beaumaris Primary School.37

A secondary victim said they thought an apology would feel very hollow to their partner if it was not a ‘whole-hearted’ one.38 An affected community member said there needs to be a formal apology from the Department to everyone who was at Beaumaris Primary School at the same time as the relevant employees.39 Another affected community member told the Board of Inquiry that apologies ‘mean something’.40

The Department’s apology

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges the formal apology to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools made by Jenny Atta PSM, Secretary, Department of Education, on behalf of the Department at the Board of Inquiry’s public hearings, and the publication of the apology online the same day.41 As part of that apology, Ms Atta said to victim-survivors: ‘I am profoundly sorry for the shocking abuse and injury inflicted upon you, abuse and injury that should never have occurred anywhere, especially in a place where you’re entitled to not only feel safe, a place where you should have been safest’.42

Ms Atta further acknowledged that she was ‘aware of evidence already before this Board of Inquiry ... that apology without a commitment and follow-through on a course of action carries the risk of further harm and an ongoing loss of trust’.43

Ms Atta committed to ‘fully engaging with the findings, conclusions and recommendations’ of the Board of Inquiry.44 The Board of Inquiry considers that the Department can build on its apology by publicly committing to actions it has already taken and is taking to prevent child sexual abuse in government schools and respond to victim-survivors. This could include, for example, documenting these actions on the Department’s website.

The Board of Inquiry also acknowledges the apology to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools made by Dr David Howes PSM, Deputy Secretary, Schools and Regional Services, Department of Education, during his evidence in the public hearings. Dr Howes apologised ‘profoundly’ and expressed ‘ongoing regret’ that people working in the position equivalent to his at the time of the child sexual abuse did not take action. He said: ‘[W]e will do everything that we can, those of us who hold those offices now, to make sure those things … do not happen again’.45

A public apology to all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that victim-survivors who shared their experiences with the inquiry expressed mixed views about a public apology. It understands that no formal apology can or would fully meet the needs of all victim-survivors, secondary victims or affected community members. As stated above, the Board considers that any apology must happen alongside other action to acknowledge and address harm.

On the balance of the information before it, the Board of Inquiry considers that a formal and public apology to all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools should be a fundamental part of the Victorian Government’s response to the findings set out in this report.

The Board of Inquiry does not consider it would be appropriate for the Victorian Government to limit its apology to victim-survivors who attended schools that were the subject of this Board of Inquiry’s work, for two main reasons. First, the information available to the Board of Inquiry has revealed that historical child sexual abuse in government schools extended beyond Beaumaris Primary School and the other schools falling within the inquiry’s scope. On this issue, the Board of Inquiry does not anticipate the State would take a different view. In other words, the Board of Inquiry understands the State would not disagree that child sexual abuse in government schools during the relevant period extended beyond the schools within the inquiry’s scope. Second, victim-survivors who were not able to share their experiences with the Board of Inquiry due to its narrow scope could feel distressed, angry and in some cases re-traumatised if an apology did not recognise their experiences.

Therefore, the Board of Inquiry considers that the Victorian Government must publicly apologise for historical child sexual abuse that occurred in all government schools across Victoria.

However, the public apology should explicitly acknowledge the experiences reflected in this report and the failures of the Department’s response at the time of the sexual abuse, as identified in this report.

The Board of Inquiry heard from some victim-survivors who were concerned about the Victorian Government making an apology before the Department has undertaken work to understand the extent of historical child sexual abuse in all government schools, believing that an apology should not be made until this work is done. The Board of Inquiry has given careful consideration to this issue, acknowledging that there has not yet been full transparency about or accounting for historical child sexual abuse in government schools on a statewide basis.

The Board of Inquiry strongly supports the Department undertaking work to understand — then disclose to the public — the full extent of historical child sexual abuse in its schools. This is discussed later in this Chapter. As will be seen, the Board of Inquiry has taken the view that the Department should not stop working to understand the extent of sexual abuse in government schools at the conclusion of this inquiry.

The Board of Inquiry considers that a statewide public apology should be made, together with an offer to all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools of a genuine pathway to share their experiences by participating in a truth-telling process (see Recommendation 3).(opens in a new window)

Recommendation 1: A statewide public apology

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Victorian Government formally apologise to all victim-survivors, secondary victims and communities affected by historical child sexual abuse in government schools. The apology should:

  • be made in Parliament, with victim-survivors and secondary victims invited to be present
  • specifically address the sexual abuse that occurred at Beaumaris Primary School and other government schools within the scope of the Board of Inquiry
  • be accompanied by commitments to action from government.

Delivering the public apology

It is important that the Victorian Government follow through on delivering a public apology in a timely manner. In her evidence, Dr Wright told the Board of Inquiry that ‘people want to see action quite quickly, and particularly when it’s government action and it’s deferred, that can be very difficult for survivors and undermine the trust that they might have in an inquiry or government action following an inquiry’.46

In delivering its public apology, the Board of Inquiry suggests the Victorian Government consider, to the fullest extent possible, the views and preferences of people affected by historical child sexual abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and other government schools within the scope of this inquiry — particularly with regards to the form of words used to describe and address their experiences.

The Board of Inquiry also considers the public apology should be published online, so that it remains accessible to people in the future.

Trauma-informed supports should be available at Parliament House for people who choose to attend on the day. The Victorian Government should also consider what temporary supports, such as telephone or online support, may need to be available to people who choose to watch the apology via live webstream.

The public apology must also be accompanied by government commitments to meaningful and tangible actions that aim to improve accountability for and responses to historical, contemporary and any future child sexual abuse in government schools. These commitments, including the timeframes within which actions would be taken, should be documented and published.

If the Victorian Government decides to implement the Board of Inquiry’s recommendation in relation to truth-telling (Recommendation 3)(opens in a new window), the public apology should include an invitation to all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools to participate in the truth-telling process.

Memorialisation

Memorials can be understood as public symbols designed to ‘remember the wrongs of the past’, and can be either physical structures or activities.47 Memorials can acknowledge the past, but they can also focus on ‘healing processes and rebuilding of trust between communities’ in the present, and raising awareness to avoid such wrongs in the future.48

Memorials are gradually being adopted as a way of acknowledging and commemorating lived experiences, rather than being reserved for memories of people who have passed away (such as war memorials).49 They are a public and visible response that can support healing for victim-survivors, secondary victims and communities affected by historical child sexual abuse.

Memorials should not be approached in a one-size-fits-all way. They can and should be delivered in a range of formats and styles to suit the needs of the relevant community. They can be permanent, such as the memorial to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse at Trinity Grammar School, unveiled in June 2023.50 They can also be temporary, such as LOUD fences — fences with colourful ribbons tied to them to represent the voices of, and show community support for, victim-survivors of child sexual abuse.51 Memorials can be large, such as sculptures or park benches, but they can also be small, such as plaques.

Memorials have been established in Australia and overseas to recognise and publicly memorialise child abuse, including abuse experienced by Stolen Generations, and sexual abuse. Examples include:

  • Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park in South Australia — ‘Australia’s first memory space to acknowledge childhood trauma’.52 This space is a memorial to the Stolen Generations at the site of the Colebrook Home for Aboriginal Children and includes two public artworks and a plaque.53
  • Memorial plaques installed at Central Station in Sydney and five regional stations (with more planned) — These acknowledge the role Transport for NSW played in the removal of Aboriginal children from their families as part of the Stolen Generations.54
  • Memorial to Survivors of Sexual Violence in Minneapolis, United States of America — This is the United States of America’s first permanent, public memorial for survivors of sexual violence. The memorial was initiated by a survivor who shared her story and mobilised other survivors to speak out publicly.55 The memorial’s design and launch was enabled by local leadership and created community dialogue about sexual violence.56

The Royal Commission found that memorials can support victim-survivor healing and recommended the establishment of a memorial.57 Specifically, the Royal Commission recommended that ‘[a] national memorial should be commissioned by the Australian Government for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. Victims and survivors should be consulted on the memorial design and it should be located in Canberra’.58 More than six years after the recommendation was made, the national memorial is yet to be built.

In 2023, the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings recommended a memorial be established at the site of Ashley Youth Detention Centre once it is closed, to recognise the ‘protracted, widespread and systematic nature’ of child sexual abuse that occurred there.59

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Northern Ireland and other inquiries into child abuse have also recommended memorials to acknowledge experiences of childhood abuse.60

Public art can also be used in memorials to convey meaning and evoke emotion. One of the public art works at the Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park is a statue of a woman looking at her empty arms, representing a grieving mother.61 The Memorial to Survivors of Sexual Violence includes seating and public art depicting a mosaic, to represent broken pieces that ‘can be put together to create something whole and beautiful’, and a ripple effect that represents ‘the multiplying power of breaking the silence’ about sexual violence.62

The role of memorials in supporting healing

Memorials have the potential to create shared narratives that can promote reconciliation and healing.63 Sexual Assault Services Victoria told the Board of Inquiry that, if sought by victim-survivors, memorials can be an important element of recovery, along with other factors such as therapeutic supports.64

The Board of Inquiry heard from a number of expert and community witnesses who spoke about using memorials to support healing from historical child sexual abuse.

Dr Rob Gordon OAM, Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, provided evidence to the Board of Inquiry that publicly memorialising the experiences of victim-survivors of child sexual abuse can provide an opportunity for communities to come together with a focus on care and respect, to remember what happened and what has been learned, and to focus on healing.65

In her evidence, Dr Wright told the Board of Inquiry about a ‘Legacy Project’ at the conclusion of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales. Dr Wright described the challenges of memorialising difficult experiences, and how the Legacy Project was developed with victim-survivors.66 The Legacy Project has seen more than 150 memorial benches and plaques displaying messages of hope installed across England and Wales, reflecting the breadth of engagement from victim-survivors across these countries.67

Maureen Hatcher, Founder, LOUD fence Inc, told the Board of Inquiry that LOUD fences in Australia, which are often located outside institutions where abuses have occurred, are designed to bring attention to the issue of sexual abuse, demonstrate support from the community, and provide a way for victim-survivors to connect with each other.68 However, Ms Hatcher described how the fences sometimes receive a ‘hostile’ response from the public, and how she had on occasion been verbally abused while tying ribbons to fences.69

Place-based memorials can play a role in helping people heal from institutional historical child sexual abuse.

Adrian Farrer, Principal, Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Victoria, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry about his experience establishing a permanent place-based memorial for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse at the school. The memorial, which is on school grounds but is visible and accessible to the public, consists of seating, a crepe myrtle tree and a slim, decorative design feature the school calls a ‘blade’ with a statement acknowledging the school’s past failures to care.70 Mr Farrer gave evidence that establishing a meaningful and authentic memorial took three and a half years.71 It required a strong commitment from both victim-survivors, who helped drive the process, and school leadership.72 Mr Farrer described the school’s approach to addressing its past failings and history of child sexual abuse as open and overt, because ‘you can’t be a school that cares if you fail to care’.73 The Trinity Grammar memorial was dedicated in June 2023.

A former student of Trinity Grammar School who has spoken publicly about his experience of sexual abuse as a child at the school (which is not within the scope of this Board of Inquiry) shared his views about the memorial at the school, saying: ‘In combination with the apologies I received, the memorial at Trinity Grammar has really helped my healing. Together, they say that people are listening and that they are genuinely sorry’.74

He told the Board of Inquiry that the school’s leadership culture has improved, and that he has a ‘real affinity and soft spot for the school now’.75 He added: ‘I think a memorial is an important way for institutions to acknowledge the experience of survivors whose lives have been completely and utterly destroyed by things that happened to them in the institution’.76

The Board of Inquiry also heard evidence about how memorials can support communities to heal from other forms of trauma.

Bruce Esplin AM, former Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner and former Chair of Regional Arts Victoria, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry about a memorial established in a small community in Gippsland following the Black Saturday bushfires. Mr Esplin described how the whole community was traumatised by the loss of community members in the fire, along with homes and community facilities.77 The community engaged a local sculptor who worked with it to build a memorial arch from fire-damaged items donated by community members.78 Mr Esplin explained that the contribution of the local community to the initiation, design and assembly of the memorial meant that the memorial was meaningful to the community.79 Mr Esplin also gave evidence that the memorial had helped many people move forward from their trauma and face the future with confidence.80

The importance of co-design

Based on the evidence it has heard and the information it has received, the Board of Inquiry understands that engagement with victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected communities is essential to ensure a memorial is meaningful and meets the needs of individuals and communities. Recent research by Alison Atkinson-Phillips, Lecturer in Community Development, Murdoch University, suggests that while there is no best-practice model for memorialising experiences, time, relationship building and communication with the people whose experiences are being memorialised are critical.81

Dr Wright gave similar evidence to the Board of Inquiry that ‘the question of how we remember difficult histories is complex. Successful approaches have foregrounded wide and meaningful engagement with victim-survivors and affected communities’.82

The Board of Inquiry also heard that while effective engagement is critical, there is no response that would satisfy or meet the needs of everyone who has experienced, or been affected by, historical child sexual abuse.83

Perspectives on the healing value of memorials

The Board of Inquiry heard a range of perspectives from victim-survivors about using memorials to acknowledge historical child sexual abuse in government schools, including the need for memorials and their location. These views were expressed in relation to recognising historical child sexual abuse in Beaumaris Primary School, and Victorian government schools more broadly.

Some victim-survivors shared that they did not wholly support a memorial. A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that they did not necessarily agree with a memorial, as it would be a constant reminder of the pain they had experienced.84 Another victim-survivor was concerned that a memorial may be more of a political opportunity than a healing opportunity, but acknowledged that it may be meaningful for other people.85

A victim-survivor described how they did not like seeing ribbons on school gates (LOUD fences) because children at the school do not need to know about the sexual abuse that occurred at the school in the past.86 Another victim-survivor described walking past Beaumaris Primary School regularly and feeling indifferent about the ribbons on display.87

An affected community member told the Board of Inquiry that memorials did not go deep enough, and made ‘no difference’ to her.88

However, other victim-survivors spoke more positively about the potential benefits of a memorial. For example, a victim-survivor described how a memorial and a space for reflection at Beaumaris Primary School would be very powerful.89 He also expressed that he was open to a wider memorial in a central location.90

A participant at the Board of Inquiry’s Lived Experience Roundtable shared their view about the importance of memorialising what happened at Beaumaris Primary School, given the focus of the inquiry. They said:

As difficult as it is, it’s better … for us as victim-survivors to see that [memorialisation of what occurred] reflected … specifically in the school. And for others, children and parents now of the school, to understand that they are not part of what went on. In fact, they need to know that it’s a great school and that children are very well looked after there now and it’s a thing of the past. But it needs to be recognised.91

One victim-survivor shared his views about memorials with the Board of Inquiry in detail. He said that histories of abuse should be memorialised at individual schools with histories of child sexual abuse, and that this public acknowledgement could help prevent abuse in the future.92 He said that if Beaumaris Primary School or other schools were memorialised, the focus should be on what has changed, along with a recognition of past failings.93

He recognised that the form of the memorial was not for him alone to determine, but shared his view that there should be a ‘public memorial in place in perpetuity in a public area — not on a school site, but a public memorial to historical childhood abuse’.94 He believed this should be in a central location and be a memorial for all schools.95

The Board of Inquiry heard from a victim-survivor who said there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but that memorials are ‘very good things’.96 She said that a memorial would be a powerful way for the community to acknowledge that people in their community had suffered.97 She also said that it would be a ‘healing process’ if victim-survivors contributed to establishing a memorial.98

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he would like to see a memorial that recognises the suffering of victim-survivors at Beaumaris Primary School ‘as a strength’.99 He said it would provide closure for victim-survivors and also be a ‘full stop’ for the school.100 But he expressed concern about the impacts on the current school community, including students.101

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry they could understand that some people would like a memorial at Beaumaris Primary School, but that other people may not want that. They suggested that a reserve or foreshore may be a good place for a memorial in Beaumaris, rather than in the school itself.102

A victim-survivor shared views about the location of a memorial, and told the Board of Inquiry that there should not be a memorial to victims on the grounds of any primary school.103 He described child sexual abuse as an ‘adult concept’ and said that a memorial at a primary school ‘creates something that young children cannot understand’.104 He suggested instead that a memorial should be located on Department property, where senior bureaucrats would see it regularly.105

The Board of Inquiry heard from another victim-survivor that memorials are one way to support healing, but that they were also interested in other ways of honouring the experiences of victim-survivors, for example, through victim-survivor-led research in universities.106

A memorial in recognition of historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School

Evidence and information available to the Board of Inquiry indicates that memorials, including place-based memorials, can be an enduring public acknowledgement of past institutional harm, and can support healing for victim-survivors, secondary victims and communities affected by historical child sexual abuse.

While views shared with the Board of Inquiry by victim-survivors were mixed, most people were supportive of a memorial that acknowledges the experiences of victim-survivors at Beaumaris Primary School, or they considered that a memorial could help other people to heal, even if it did not do so for them personally.

Given the extent of information now known in relation to experiences of historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School, and the general support victim-survivors expressed for a memorial, the Board of Inquiry considers that the creation of a memorial would be appropriate and meaningful. Consistent with the evidence the Board of Inquiry heard about the need for extensive consultation in designing memorials of this kind, it has not considered it appropriate to make recommendations about the design and location of such a memorial. It has, however, specified matters of process in Recommendation 2(opens in a new window).

As explained below, while the Board of Inquiry has recommended creating a memorial acknowledging historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School, it has not made such a recommendation in relation to other government schools within the inquiry’s scope. That is because, as previously explained, most of the victim-survivors who shared their experiences with the Board of Inquiry were from Beaumaris Primary School. Accordingly, while the Board considers it has a strong basis to recommend creating a memorial acknowledging historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School, further consultation with victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected communities would be needed before embarking on a process to create a memorial with respect to historical child sexual abuse at other schools. As noted above, Recommendation 2(opens in a new window) provides more detail as to process.

The Board of Inquiry notes that victim-survivors expressed some support for a broader, statewide memorial to acknowledge historical child sexual abuse in all government schools. However, the Board of Inquiry was not in a position to make recommendations about a statewide memorial, given consultation with victim-survivors from government schools across Victoria was not within its scope.

Recommendation 2: A new memorial and a consistent process

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Department of Education:

  • work with victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members to co-design the location and form of a memorial acknowledging historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School
  • consider, facilitate and fund requests for other memorials to acknowledge historical child sexual abuse in government schools in accordance with new policy guidance for memorials. This policy guidance should be trauma-informed and:
    • be developed in consultation with victim-survivors and secondary victims of historical child sexual abuse in government schools
    • provide for consistent assessment of requests for memorials, and
    • describe decision-making processes, types of memorialisation to consider and requirements for facilitating engagement with victim-survivors, secondary victims, local communities and other stakeholders.

Establishing the memorial and developing a consistent process

The Board of Inquiry has deliberately not been prescriptive about the form or location of a memorial in relation to Beaumaris Primary School. This recognises that any memorial needs to be designed based on the needs and preferences of the victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members, and that it takes time to do this well.

However, the Board of Inquiry learned about the features of memorials that make them more likely to be meaningful and valued. While the memorial should be co-designed and the process trauma-informed, the Board of Inquiry suggests the following factors should be considered:

  • Ensure the design process is accessible and widely communicated to maximise awareness and opportunities for participation for people who are affected.
  • Afford victim-survivors choice about how they wish to participate and their level of engagement, including enabling them to provide one-off feedback or engage with the process along the way (for example, establishing a victim-survivor working group to co-design the memorial).
  • Ensure participating victim-survivors and secondary victims are provided access to trauma-informed counselling and support during the co-design process.
  • Adopt a broad view of ‘community’ when consulting, recognising that local community members may include (but are not limited to) representatives of local organisations, Bayside City Council and the existing school community. ‘Community’ may also include other public landowners, such as Parks Victoria.
  • Be sensitive regarding the location of the memorial, recognising that the practical challenges associated with establishing memorials on public primary school grounds may make them unsuitable locations for memorials. Some of these challenges include restrictions on public access to primary schools.

The Board of Inquiry notes that the Department has acknowledged the importance of exploring a memorial on Beaumaris Primary School grounds as one option as part of a co-design process, as well as other options.107 Other options may include locating a memorial nearby within the local government area.

As a starting point, the Victorian Government should look to recent examples of place-based memorials acknowledging historical child sexual abuse that have been established in non-government school settings in Victoria, including Trinity Grammar School, Kew, and St Patrick’s College, Ballarat. These examples provide opportunities to learn about engagement and consultation processes, and design and implementation opportunities and challenges.

To facilitate an equitable approach to assessing any requests for other memorials, the Department must develop trauma-informed policies and guidelines to enable consistent assessment of requests. These should be developed in consultation with victim-survivors and secondary victims of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, to ensure that the perspectives of people with lived experience are incorporated from the beginning of the process.

The Board of Inquiry appreciates that the Department is already considering many of these matters, and the Department has informed the Board of Inquiry that it intends to develop policies related to memorials acknowledging child sexual abuse in government schools.108

Reckoning with past failings

Truth-telling and accountability are key contributors to the process of healing for victim-survivors. The Board of Inquiry is addressing this through two recommendations:

  • a statewide truth-telling and accountability process for all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools that documents their experiences and contributes to a public record of past failings of the Department (Recommendation 3)(opens in a new window)
  • a new restorative engagement program for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools (Recommendation 4)(opens in a new window).

These recommendations serve two objectives: to improve recognition of all victim-survivors’ experiences and to increase the Department’s accountability.

The recommendations are intended for two different groups of victim-survivors. Recommendation 3(opens in a new window) extends the opportunity that was afforded to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse who came within the scope of this inquiry to all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools and non-government schools where the alleged perpetrator previously worked at a government school and allegedly committed child sexual abuse at that government school. Consistent with the definition in the Terms of Reference, the recommendation applies to those victim-survivors who experienced abuse on or prior to 31 December 1999.

However, recommendation 4(opens in a new window) is not an extension of the work undertaken by this inquiry. Further, there is no principled reason for limiting eligibility to participate in a restorative engagement process to adults who experienced child sexual abuse in a government school on or prior to 31 December 1999. Accordingly, recommendation 4 is not limited to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, but applies to all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools.

The restorative engagement program, as the Board of Inquiry envisages it, would therefore be available to adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools, irrespective of when the abuse occurred.

A statewide truth-telling and accountability process and creation of a public record

Truth-telling is typically associated with justice and reconciliation in colonised countries, including Australia.109 Truth-telling processes can, however, offer healing and acknowledgement for other people who have been failed or wronged by governments or institutions. There is no single definition, but Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTAR) describe truth-telling as follows:

Truth-telling, broadly speaking, encompasses any activity or process that exposes historical and/or ongoing truths. It often acts as a record of historical experience as part of a process of relationship-building, political transformation or reconstitution of political relations in divided societies. Truth-telling should be understood as a multifaceted and ongoing process (as opposed to a predetermined end) which deepens over time.110

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that it has drawn on the experiences and expertise of First Nations communities to help it consider how truth-telling can support healing in the context of the inquiry.

Truth-telling processes can be facilitated through specially established bodies.111 One such body is the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The Centre was established as a place of dialogue with First Nations, Inuit and the Metis Nation peoples, who were forced to attend residential schools, where widespread abuse took place.112 The Centre preserves the record of these human rights abuses, promotes continued research and learning, and educates Canadians on the profound injustices experienced by First Nations, Inuit and the Metis Nation peoples.113

Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation convened a truth-telling symposium in October 2018, where participants noted that truth-telling plays a central role in healing, and has the ‘power to shape a better future’.114 At the symposium, Professor Tom Calma AO, human rights and social justice advocate, said: ‘[t]ruth telling is about developing a shared understanding, which can serve as the basis for us all to move forward together. At its core, truth telling must be driven by the goal of recognising rights and driving reform’.115

According to Mick Gooda, former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Social Justice Commissioner:

We know that truth-telling is central to the healing we must all go through. Without the truth we will never heal properly ...116

The Royal Commission is one of a number of inquiries and royal commissions in recent decades that have incorporated truth-telling components.117 Professor Helen Milroy, who was a Commissioner appointed to the Royal Commission, told the 2018 truth-telling symposium that ‘[p]eople came to us not because they wanted compensation, but they wanted their story to contribute to a positive future for children, and a safer future for children’.118 She said the truth-telling aspect of the Royal Commission’s work allowed participants to feel that their story mattered and that they could move forward with their healing.119

Dr Gordon gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that ‘such an important part of the healing of sexual abuse is the sense that this is coming into the open, that it’s realised that this is wrong and that the community at large is against it. So it means it needs to be acknowledged and talked about’.120 Dr Gordon also said that ‘[v]ictim-survivors being able to tell their story is very important to healing from trauma’.121

Former Premier Daniel Andrews, when announcing this Board of Inquiry, said, ‘[t]his is principally a truth-telling process’,122 and that ‘what’s important is that we hear and believe victim-survivors, and we give them an opportunity to record their truth … to take a step closer to that healing, and I think acknowledgement and belief and support and having your truth recorded forever is a very important thing. This will culminate in a full apology as well’.123 These principles outlined by the former Premier — truth-telling and having that truth permanently documented — have been fundamental to the Board of Inquiry’s work.

Perspectives on truth-telling

For victim-survivors who engaged with the inquiry, the importance of truth-telling, or the opportunity to be heard and validated, emerged as a strong theme. The Board of Inquiry heard that truth-telling provides an opportunity for individual healing, and can also contribute to collective healing by creating safe spaces for victim-survivors to share their experiences and connect with other people with similar experiences. A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry:

[I]n my experience, silence is the enemy of the survivor.124

He went on to say: ‘I understand why there are people that would remain silent and deal with the impacts of abuse themselves … but I would encourage people to come forward and to, I guess, start with talking about this and coming forward to the inquiry and giving their evidence in whatever shape or form that they can’.125

Another victim-survivor said the biggest impediment to her healing was ‘the silencing’.126 She described the impact of this silencing as profound, but felt the Board of Inquiry enabled the silence to be broken, and that sharing her experience and feeling believed and validated was powerful for her.127

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry about the value of feeling heard:

I really appreciate and am really thankful to this inquiry for listening because I feel … like I have been finally listened to … after 48 years. I’ve finally been listened to and validated and my hope is that there’s some other people who have read the newspapers … like I did … But I’m sure there’s other people … that might have some psychological benefit by someone else saying ‘Yep, this happened, this stuff happened’.128

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry:

The important thing … is that you’re talking about it, and I think that in itself is, apart from being really courageous and strong, it’s the single biggest thing that will help you in your journey ahead … to keep communicating and talking about how you’re feeling.129

A victim-survivor described how sharing his experience with the Board of Inquiry made him feel like he was able to move on with his life after suppressing his experiences for so long.130

The Board of Inquiry heard that victim-survivors should be supported to share their experiences and speak in their own time, with one victim-survivor stating the Board of Inquiry had given him ‘space and a comfortable platform to talk about his experiences and he hopes it encourages others and assists with others in their healing process’.131 A victim-survivor said that a fellow victim-survivor had told him he would know when he felt ready to come forward and share his experiences, which the first victim-survivor described to the Board of Inquiry as his ‘dark story’.132

Participants at the Board of Inquiry’s Lived Experience Roundtable also spoke about the importance of being heard when sharing experiences relating to sexual abuse. One participant described feeling waves of grief, hurt, shame and humiliation, and experiences of not being listened to.133 Another participant said that ‘being listened to is probably one of the most important things in my journey since [I was] a young [child] because I had a couple of goes at trying to be listened to and was absolutely not listened to at all’.134

A secondary victim described the opportunity to engage with the Board of Inquiry and share her experiences as a privilege and said of the process: ‘Out of the sadness is going to come some goodness’.135

The importance of institutional accountability and transparency as part of truth-telling

While truth-telling in its own right is important and can support healing, it often needs to be coupled with institutional accountability and transparency to contribute to individual and collective healing.

When information about the extent of institutional child sexual abuse is not made public, the lack of openness contributes to the silence around child sexual abuse that has endured for too long. It limits accountability. It prevents the institution from learning from its past action and inaction, and from taking steps to improve. Importantly, it also impedes victim-survivors’ healing and ability to come forward to share their experience.

In his evidence, Dr Gordon told the Board of Inquiry that ‘socially speaking, the solution to trauma is history, because history is in the past, but it also tells us … what we might have learnt. And then we can actually take that learning into changing society for the better’.136

In Chapter 13, System failings(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry set out a finding that the Department has never investigated historical child sexual abuse in government schools adequately or broadly enough to understand or publicly acknowledge the true extent of this abuse, meaning it cannot be fully accountable for past failings. While the work the Department has undertaken in support of this Board of Inquiry is substantial, further work is still needed to investigate and understand historical child abuse in government schools at a statewide level.

Victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that it was important for the Department to take steps to understand the full extent of historical child sexual abuse that has occurred in government schools and to be transparent about what it learns. A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that the Department needs to ‘clear the decks and put everything on the table’ and understand the extent of historical child sexual abuse in government schools beyond Beaumaris Primary School and other schools within the scope of this inquiry.137

Another victim-survivor described being enraged by their belief that the Department had been trying to hide the truth and had not been open.138 She described how it would be healing for institutions to publicly take accountability and would help to prevent further sexual abuse.139

Similarly, an affected community member said that public transparency would be helpful, and victim-survivors needed to not feel afraid of speaking up.140 They said knowing the truth was out in the open was the most important thing to them.141

In private session after private session, it was made clear to the Board of Inquiry that knowing the ‘full picture’ was a vital part of many victim-survivors’ personal healing journeys. For some victim-survivors, the fact that they were not the only person who had come forward with an experience of sexual abuse by a particular alleged perpetrator was a significant revelation. Until that point, many had thought they were the only one.

A victim-survivor said that when he saw media coverage of the Board of Inquiry, he felt it was an opportunity to speak the truth.142 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that since learning that other people at their school experienced sexual abuse, they were ‘happy to openly discuss’ their own experience ‘in the hope that it may help to prevent this sort of thing happening in the future’.143 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that they hoped their evidence ‘encourages other victim survivors to come forward and speak the truth about what happened to us’.144

For other victim-survivors, it was particularly important to know whether parents or other teachers had made complaints, or to understand how it came to be that the alleged perpetrator was moved to another school. These examples illustrate a broader point: victim-survivors would be in a better position to heal if they understand the entire picture of child sexual abuse at government schools.

Victim-survivors also spoke about recognition and change. One victim-survivor said that it is important to feel a sense of justice, but that justice ‘requires some kind of change [and] recognition of harm’, as well as making sure child sexual abuse in government schools does not happen again.145 At the Board of Inquiry’s Lived Experience Roundtable, a victim-survivor said that they had been ‘hell-bent on trying to stop future abuse of other kids’.146

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that there was a need for education about and recognition of the magnitude of the impacts of child sexual abuse in government schools.147

A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that the most important thing to them was that the Department was working to address child sexual abuse in government schools in an ongoing way.148 Another victim-survivor said they hoped the Department had ‘improved its policies and procedures in handling, investigating and acting to remove these abusers from this environment and reporting information to the police so proper legal investigations and actions are taken’.149

The need for a statewide truth-telling and accountability process

Through the course of its work, the Board of Inquiry has heard from victim-survivors about how valuable it has been to their healing to participate in a truth-telling process and contribute to a public record. The Board of Inquiry’s work has demonstrated the value in providing a truth-telling process for a particular group of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools — that is, victim-survivors of abuse at Beaumaris Primary School and other schools within the inquiry’s scope. However, the Board of Inquiry’s limited scope meant that many other victim-survivors have not had the same opportunity to participate in these processes or contribute to the public record.

As a participant at a Services Roundtable observed, the narrow focus of the Board of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference created ‘two classes’ of victim-survivors — those who had the benefit of the Board of Inquiry’s work, and those who did not.150

Victim-survivors do have some existing pathways to share their experiences. They can choose to access the National Redress Scheme or seek financial support through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). They can also choose to pursue a civil claim against the Department and, in recent times, have been able to seek information about the various support and healing options available to them through the Department’s Sexual Harm Response Unit.

While these pathways are helpful and accessible to some people, some victim-survivors may not be eligible for these pathways or some, for various reasons, choose not to engage in them. For example, a victim-survivor might not feel emotionally equipped to pursue a civil claim or might not be interested in pursuing financial assistance or redress. For people who are not eligible for or choose not to engage with these pathways, there is no formal opportunity to share their experience. In addition, some of these avenues require victim-survivors to navigate legal or other processes that can make them feel constrained when expressing their experiences or disappointed with the degree of recognition they receive.

Further, none of these processes directly contribute to a wider public record about the extent of historical child sexual abuse in government schools and the failings by the Department to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse at the time.

The work of the Board of Inquiry has been important. But there is more to be done. Based on the evidence and information before it, the Board of Inquiry considers that more comprehensive accountability is required, and all victim-survivors should have equitable access to share their experiences if they wish to do so. For these reasons, the Board of Inquiry considers that a statewide independent truth-telling and accountability process for all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools is required. A statewide process would enable the creation of a comprehensive public record of victim-survivors’ experiences, as well as the Department’s past failings.

This statewide process is needed to support full public awareness and individual and collective healing.

Recommendation 3: A statewide truth-telling and accountability process

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Victorian Government establish a statewide truth-telling and accountability process for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in all Victorian government schools that:

  • is independent and time-limited
  • is available to:
    • victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in any Victorian government school
    • victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in a non-government school where the alleged perpetrator previously worked at a government school and allegedly committed child sexual abuse at that government school
  • results in an independent public record of victim-survivors’ experiences shared through the truth-telling process, that includes recognition of past failings of the Department of Education.

Establishing a truth-telling and accountability process for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools

The Board of Inquiry is of the view that a statewide truth-telling and accountability process would:

  • provide all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in Victorian government schools an opportunity for their experiences to be heard and acknowledged
  • inform a public record of historical child sexual abuse in government schools and the failings of the Department of Education
  • increase departmental accountability and transparency in relation to historical child sexual abuse in government schools
  • allow the Government to learn from the experiences and information shared, in order to better prevent and respond to child sexual abuse in government schools into the future.

Scope and access

It is recommended that the truth-telling and accountability process be open to:

  • all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools up to and including 31 December 1999
  • all victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in a non-government school up to and including 31 December 1999, where the alleged perpetrator had previously been an employee of a government school and allegedly committed child sexual abuse at that government school.

The Board of Inquiry considers it appropriate to expand the scope to non-government schools where an alleged perpetrator previously worked at a government school and allegedly committed child sexual abuse at that school. This is because any inaction by the Department against an alleged perpetrator while in the government school setting may have resulted in missed opportunities to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in the non-government school setting. As the work of this inquiry demonstrates, there cannot be full accountability if it is not possible to inquire into circumstances where, for example, an employee with a known history of child sexual abuse convictions is able to move into the non-government sector and continue teaching. An example of this scenario is highlighted in Chapter 11, The alleged perpetrators.(opens in a new window)151

Principles of the truth-telling and accountability process

For the independent truth-telling and accountability process to operate as the Board of Inquiry envisions, it proposes a number of principles to shape the implementation and delivery of the process. These are outlined below.

INDEPENDENCE

Independence would be critical to the success of any truth-telling and accountability process. It is likely that many victim-survivors would not choose to engage with a truth-telling process if it were not independent from the Victorian Government and the Department. In the Board of Inquiry’s view, the ability of a truth-telling and accountability process to build trust with victim-survivors would be significantly impaired if it were not independent.

The Victorian Government may wish to consider a range of options to deliver the independent truth-telling process, such as establishing an independent statutory body, or establishing a time-limited inquiry.

A TRAUMA-INFORMED APPROACH

Every aspect of the truth-telling and accountability process must be delivered in a trauma-informed way. Trauma-informed approaches place an emphasis on the psychological, cultural and physical safety of victim-survivors.

To be delivered in a trauma-informed way, the truth-telling and accountability process should, at a minimum:

  • maximise victim-survivors’ choice in how they participate with the truth-telling aspect of the process; for example, they could be offered the option to take part in person, online or through written engagement
  • offer free counselling to the victim-survivors and their supporters prior to, during and shortly after they participate in the process
  • employ a continuity-of-care model; for example, victim-survivors and their supporters could be provided with a single point of contact and the same independent representative throughout the process
  • provide physical locations for taking part in the process that feel safe and welcoming for victim-survivors and their supporters, and are not clinical or adversarial
  • employ staff with skills, experience and training in trauma-informed approaches
  • ensure equity of access to the process, and that victim-survivors and their supporters experience no financial disadvantage from taking part; for example, they could be reimbursed for costs they incur, such as travel or accommodation.
CREATING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR DIVERSE PARTICIPANTS

The Board of Inquiry anticipates that in implementing a statewide truth-telling and accountability process, victim-survivors from a diverse range of backgrounds would be eligible to participate, including people from First Nations communities, people from culturally diverse communities, people with disabilities, people from LGBTIQA+ communities, and people of different genders and ages.

It is critical that the truth-telling and accountability process is designed so that it is accessible and safe for people of all backgrounds to participate.

LEGAL RIGOUR

The truth-telling process would need to consider and manage how it operates in the context of civil claims, redress and restorative engagement approaches. Consideration of relevant reporting obligations would also be important.

Establishing a public record of historical child sexual abuse

Establishing a public record would help victim-survivors understand what happened and know that they are not to blame and may not be alone in their experiences. It may also encourage more people to come forward through the truth-telling aspect of the process or to seek justice or support through other pathways.

To support this, a public record that documents the experiences that are shared by victim-survivors through the process must be established by the entity responsible for the truth-telling and accountability process. This should be regularly updated as more people share their experiences.

The truth-telling and accountability process must also operate transparently. For example, the entity responsible may establish a dedicated website and publicly share information about the schools that victim-survivors have shared information on, how many people have participated in the process, and how information is being gathered.

While the Board of Inquiry recommends that the public record be established independently, it has a strong view that the Department should also proactively seek to understand the extent of its own failings and be transparent about its findings. For example, if the truth-telling and accountability process is not undertaken in the context of an inquiry, the Department should review its own records, document the action or inaction it took in response to any child sexual abuse identified (as well as the reasons for that action or inaction), and assess the effectiveness of any actions taken. This review should be provided to the entity responsible for the truth-telling and accountability process to contribute to the public record and to ensure a more complete understanding of the extent of historical child sexual abuse in government schools.

The Board of Inquiry is of the view that this action would support greater accountability, provide victim-survivors with a deeper understanding of what occurred and ensure recognition of their experiences.

A new approach to personal responses

The role of personal responses in supporting healing

Personal apologies or acknowledgements of harm can be important for individual healing from institutional abuse. These personal responses can contribute to healing in similar ways to public apologies, but in a private way.

Similar to public apologies, a personal apology must be sincere, empathetic, unconditional and freely given in order to be a helpful response for victim-survivors.152 Meaningful apologies that include both personal and public acknowledgement of an institution’s failures can have a healing effect for victim-survivors.153 Any such responses should always be delivered in a trauma-informed way.154

Dr Judith Herman, a psychiatrist who has researched trauma and abuse extensively, suggests that many victim-survivors need ‘[a]cknowledgment of [their] truth, acknowledgment of the harm [they have] suffered, and [a] full apology’.155 Dr Herman describes genuine apologies as personal and emotional, and as creating ‘the possibility of repairing a relationship’.156

Actions that follow a personal apology can add to an apology’s meaningfulness or undermine it. In her evidence to the Board of Inquiry, Professor Bromfield said that victim-survivors:

are entirely reasonable in their expectation that institutions should, of their own volition, feel that they ought to apologise, for that apology to be genuine, for that apology to be given by a person in a position of authority, and for that apology to be backed up with action that is congruent with the apology. So you don’t say ‘I’m sorry’ and then in civil litigation you’ve got multiple techniques to deny the abuse or … not be a model litigant.157

Dr Gary Foster, founder of Living Well, a service for men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, has trained government executives in Queensland in apologising to victim-survivors of institutional abuse on behalf of government. Dr Foster told the Board of Inquiry’s Healing Roundtable that an apology by a government or institutional representative should include the ‘trifecta’ — apologising personally, apologising in their role within the institution, and apologising on behalf of the government department or institution.158

Victim-survivors shared their perspectives with the Board of Inquiry about personal apologies and responses. Generally, people who shared their views were supportive of victim-survivors being able to seek an apology directly from the Department. One victim-survivor said he wanted an apology from the Department to recognise the years of torment he had experienced, and that no-one had done anything to help him.159

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that after he disclosed his experience of sexual abuse, he would have liked someone from the Department and Victoria Police to contact him and say sorry.160 He said: ‘Of course, they have not done this, and I am left with the feeling that they did not listen or care then, and that they are not listening and they do not care now. No-one called.’161

Victim-survivors also spoke of the need for apologies to be genuine. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that after a civil claim is settled, there is ‘an apology of sorts’, but that it is not individual (that is, personalised) and that there should be a genuine apology made.162 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that people must be apologised to individually, and in person, not through a third party such as a solicitor.163 A victim-survivor described a written apology he received after meeting with the Secretary of the Department, and his view that it was not personal. He noted that the apology ‘is addressed to my lawyer. It’s nice, no real complaints, except it’s not personal. It’s not to me.’164

Some victim-survivors spoke of receiving apologies from the school or the State. A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry:

It feels to me like schools, that there should be the capacity for a person, to go back to a school and say: ‘Something happened when I was a student at school’. Even if it was 20 years ago ... I feel very much like schools, by embracing that responsibility around reporting or willing to report historical instances of abuse, that would change things over time. I think if that was embedded into the training of teachers and the system that would change things.165

Another victim-survivor described being asked, as part of a court proceeding, whether he would like an apology, and that he said he only wanted an apology from the State.166

Bravehearts told the Board of Inquiry that some victim-survivors might like individual apologies from the school where they were sexually abused.167 Bravehearts said: ‘[v]ictims and survivors need to see the school or organisation where they were harmed state clearly that they acknowledge the harm done to children, that they unconditionally condemn the actions of the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator, and that they offer support to those harmed’.168

The Board of Inquiry notes that there is no legal distinction between schools and the Department, including for the purpose of delivering apologies. Despite this, victim-survivors may perceive them as different, and have preferences about who they would like to engage with and receive an apology from.

Restorative engagement as a good practice approach to delivering personal responses

How personal responses are delivered, and whether they are considered authentic, can have an impact on their effectiveness.169 It is important that the interaction between a victim-survivor and institutional representative(s) feels personal and genuine for it to contribute to healing. The Board of Inquiry heard that a representative giving a personal response needs to show empathy and compassion and be emotionally present.170 One person at the Healing Roundtable emphasised the need for the person delivering an apology to be ‘seen as being fair dinkum and absolutely owning the apology’.171

The Board of Inquiry understands that a restorative engagement approach is considered good practice when it comes to supporting victim-survivors to engage with an institution to receive a personal response.

Restorative engagement is a process that ‘brings together the person harmed with a senior leader of the institution in which the harm occurred to outline their personal account of harm, its impact, the ongoing effects and to receive a personalised and genuine acknowledgement of the resulting harm’.172

Restorative engagement is a more structured form of personal response that can be used to support healing from institutional historical child sexual abuse. While a restorative engagement program may result in a personal apology or acknowledgement of harm from the institution, it is a much more trauma-informed and victim-centred process than an apology alone. Restorative engagement involves properly preparing everyone who participates in the process (for example, a victim-survivor, any support people they would like involved, and institutional representatives) to ensure they understand what the engagement would involve, what the victim-survivor hopes to achieve, and what arrangements are needed to support an optimal outcome for the victim-survivor.

Importantly, restorative processes often include a truth-telling element. The very nature of the process of an individual seeking recognition would often involve an element of sharing or telling one’s truth. Establishing a ‘healing and restorative truth’ provides acknowledgement of the broad facts, the harm suffered, accountability for wrong-doing and reparation, and can facilitate healing.173 Unlike the truth-telling and accountability process outlined in Recommendation 3(opens in a new window), restorative engagement processes are individual, private and do not result in public accountability by the responsible institution.

Restorative engagement processes are also guided by ethical values of voluntariness, safety, inclusion, dignity, respect, responsibility, accountability, truth-telling and honesty.174 These processes seek to enhance mutual understanding and agreement, truth, trust, and participants’ healing and individual choice.175

An example of a restorative engagement program is the recently implemented Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme, which supports former or current Victoria Police employees who have experienced sexual harassment or sex discrimination in the workplace.176 This scheme, which is run independently of Victoria Police through the Department of Justice and Community Safety, enables people to share their experiences with a senior Victoria Police representative and access broader redress arrangements, including financial payments.177

A review of the Defence Abuse Restorative Engagement Program, ‘which gives complainants the opportunity to have their complaint heard, acknowledged and responded to by a senior Defence representative’,178 found that the program offered profound value for victim-survivors by having their experiences listened to by senior representatives and acknowledged.179 The review also found that the program was having significant positive cultural change within the organisation.180

The timing of personal responses

The Department told the Board of Inquiry that victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools may engage with the Department via two streams: by making an application under the National Redress Scheme or through a civil claim.181

The first of these — the National Redress Scheme — adopts a restorative engagement process that ‘is fundamental to [victim-survivors] achieving a sense of healing’.182 Redress arrangements are outside the scope of the Board of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference and accordingly have not been examined. However, the Department provided information to the Board of Inquiry about ‘direct personal responses’, which are a component of the National Redress Scheme.183 Under the National Redress Scheme, victim-survivors are offered the opportunity to receive a direct personal response from an institution for the harm they experienced as a child.184 It can include an acknowledgement of the victim-survivor’s experience and of the impacts of the sexual abuse, an apology and an explanation from the institution about what it has done, or would do, to prevent further abuse. Direct personal responses can be made face-to-face, in writing or through other arrangements, dependent on a victim-survivor’s needs.185

The second — when a civil claim is concluded — currently has no program or process to enable someone to then seek a personal response, other than making a separate application through the National Redress Scheme (which can be made concurrently with a civil claim).186 However, not all victim-survivors would be eligible to make a claim through the National Redress Scheme. For example, if a victim-survivor has previously been awarded compensation or damages by a court they are not eligible to apply to the scheme and cannot access a direct personal response, unless another institution was also responsible for the abuse they experienced.187

An example of how this situation can affect victim-survivors was shared with the Board of Inquiry through a submission. The submission described how a victim-survivor’s request for a direct personal response from the Department at the conclusion of a civil matter was refused on the basis that he needed to make an application through the National Redress Scheme.188 The victim-survivor decided not to pursue this application due to the need to provide further legal documentation about the sexual abuse he experienced, as well as long wait times.189

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that it is open to a new program for victim-survivors to access a ‘direct personal engagement’ with the Department at the conclusion of a civil matter, without having to make an application through the National Redress Scheme.190 In relation to victim-survivors who would like an acknowledgement from the Department but pursue neither a civil nor redress claim, the Department gave evidence indicating that the Sexual Harm Response Unit could facilitate and arrange this type of engagement.191 The Board of Inquiry considers each of these steps, if taken, to be positive developments.

When describing the possible new program in the Board of Inquiry’s public hearings, the Department gave evidence that it ‘would need very skilled and trained facilitators … because a trauma-informed approach to direct personal engagement would necessarily involve it being very, very victim-centred’.192

The Board of Inquiry welcomes the Department’s willingness to establish an additional avenue for victim-survivors to seek a personal engagement with the Department at the conclusion of a civil claim, without having to make a separate application through the National Redress Scheme.

However, the Board of Inquiry understands that even with this positive change, victim-survivors who do not make a civil claim or apply through the National Redress Scheme would still not have a pathway to seek a personal response from the Department. The Board of Inquiry considers that this gap should be addressed.

In addition, people who finalised their civil claim with the Department some time ago may not have had the option of seeking a personal response at the time. These people should also be eligible to seek a personal response from the Department now.

The Board of Inquiry is of the view that the Department should implement a restorative engagement program for all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools, recognising that the restorative engagement model is a good practice approach to delivering personal responses. The Board of Inquiry is of the view that the process should be open to all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools, not just victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse, as victim-survivors may benefit from this healing response irrespective of when the sexual abuse occurred. While victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in a government school would also be eligible for the truth-telling and accountability process outlined in Recommendation 3(opens in a new window), if they choose not to participate in that process, they can participate in the restorative engagement program instead.

Recommendation 4: A restorative engagement program

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Department of Education establish a restorative engagement program for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools who:

  • cannot or do not wish to make a civil claim or National Redress Scheme application, or
  • have finalised a civil claim against the Department of Education, without the need to make a separate application through the National Redress Scheme, or
  • finalised a civil claim before Direct Personal Responses were available.

This program would allow these victim-survivors to safely share their experience of child sexual abuse and the harm caused, and receive a personal response from the Department of Education.

Introducing a restorative engagement program in the Department

The restorative engagement program must be designed and established so that it:

  • is trauma-informed and based on best-practice and current evidence on effective restorative engagement practices
  • is victim-survivor-led in a way that maximises choice and flexibility, including methods of participation (for example, in person or in writing) and timing
  • involves expert and independent facilitators with appropriate training, skills and expertise to sensitively support the victim-survivor, the Departmental representative, and the response victim-survivors receive through the process
  • builds existing capability within the Department (including executive leaders who would be providing responses) to participate in restorative engagement
  • introduces the necessary new capability into the Department to directly support victim-survivors to understand and participate in the process in a safe, trauma-informed way
  • creates opportunities for continuous improvement in current approaches to the prevention of and response to child sexual abuse in government schools.

The restorative engagement program should be designed in consultation with victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, including people who have previously participated in a comparable restorative engagement process (such as receiving a direct personal response through the National Redress Scheme).

Regardless of the pathway a victim-survivor chooses to use to seek a personal engagement with the Department, the quality of the engagement process and any personal response should be the same. To do this, it is critical that the Department introduces and builds the necessary existing and new capability to effectively deliver the restorative engagement program so that:

  • All executives involved in restorative engagement and personal responses have undertaken training on how to communicate with victim-survivors in a trauma-informed way and deliver personal responses in line with good practice.
  • Support staff have the clinical experience, expertise and capability to support victim-survivors to make an application for the pathway, move through the pathway safely, change processes or pause the process if required and facilitate access to additional supports if needed.
  • Skilled and independent facilitators are available to conduct trauma-informed personal engagements.193

For people pursuing civil claims, the Board of Inquiry understands that the restorative engagement program cannot run concurrently and would need to be undertaken after a claim has concluded. However, victim-survivors should still have appropriate access to information and initial assistance through the online hub and telephone line proposed in Recommendation 6(opens in a new window).

The success of the restorative engagement program would also be supported by other processes recommended by the Board of Inquiry. Improved records management processes, including digitising and cataloguing records (Recommendation 5)(opens in a new window) would be essential to better equip the Department to quickly respond to victim-survivors’ requests, and identify and produce the information and files necessary to support engagement in a personalised way.

Information access to aid healing

As described throughout Part B(opens in a new window), victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools are often left searching for understanding. Why were they sexually abused? Who else was sexually abused at their school? What was known at the time? What action was taken, or not taken, by those in charge?

Access to transparent and centralised information about historical child sexual abuse in government schools is essential to help victim-survivors and secondary victims understand what happened to them or their loved one. This understanding contributes to their healing and sense of recognition and holds the Department accountable.

The Board of Inquiry understands that there are two key problems with the Department’s approach to sharing information.

The first problem is the lack of publicly available information from the Department about the extent of historical child sexual abuse in government schools or its past failings. This makes it very difficult for victim-survivors to identify and understand what they have experienced in context. This is addressed earlier in this Chapter in Recommendation 3(opens in a new window), about the establishment of a public record of child sexual abuse in government schools.

The second problem relates to personal access to information, such as individual school records or general information about schools. This is discussed in more detail below.

Better information-sharing practices and processes for individuals

The role of information-sharing and access in supporting healing

Victim-survivors and secondary victims of historical child sexual abuse often seek out information, such as school records, to try to understand what happened to them. The response they receive from an institution is very important. While not all information can be shared, institutions need to provide a sensitive and transparent response about what is (and is not) available and why.

A study into victim-survivors’ perceptions of institutional responses to child sexual abuse suggests that helpful responses occurred when ‘[t]he institution provided information freely and did not try to close down investigations’.194

The Department provided evidence about the importance of access to information during the Board of Inquiry’s public hearings, saying ‘what we’ve heard through correspondence with the victim-survivors at Beaumaris is that truth-telling and information is really critical to healing’.195 The Department acknowledged that access to information is limited by poor historical records and past record-keeping practices.196

To further inform its understanding of these issues, the Board of Inquiry has drawn on examples from other historical contexts.

Many people who grew up in out-of-home care search for records and information to help them better understand their identity and reconnect with family. Processes to do this ‘can be frustrating, complicated, time-consuming, expensive and traumatic’.197 Find & Connect is a web resource created by historians, archivists and social workers with funding from the Commonwealth Government. It launched in November 2011 and contains publicly available records and information about institutional care in Australia, such as records and information about orphanages and children’s homes.198

Finding Records is another web resource, developed by the then Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, to support former ‘wards of the state’, Pre-1990 Care Leavers (‘Forgotten Australians’) and Stolen Generations to find and access historical records.199 The website contains more than one million historical records that have been indexed, as well as guides to help people find records.200

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that it would like to commence a reform project related to the digitisation of school records so that they can be catalogued and, depending on the nature of the record, publicly shared via the Public Record Office Victoria or the Department’s school history website.201 The Department indicated that this project would also support requests for records that are not publicly available, by enabling quicker access to records and greater responsiveness to requests.202

Access to information, including initiatives planned or underway to digitise and improve access to records, was also discussed during the Board of Inquiry’s Government Roundtable.203

Challenges accessing information for victim-survivors and secondary victims

The Board of Inquiry heard that victim-survivors and secondary victims currently struggle to access information relevant to the child sexual abuse they or their loved ones experienced.

A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had sought information to support a potential civil claim and to prevent his alleged abuser having further access to children.204 He described how a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Victoria Police, made years after he had initially reported the sexual abuse to the police, resulted in him receiving a one-page document that was largely redacted.205

A secondary victim related how they had engaged with the Department and Victoria Police to obtain a teacher’s employment records, describing the FOI processes they had to follow as ‘very difficult’.206

Another secondary victim told the Board of Inquiry about the challenges she experienced when seeking her now deceased brother’s police records from Victoria Police, and how she eventually had to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for their release.207

An affected community member familiar with Beaumaris Primary School described how former students had approached the school seeking records and validation of their experiences, but that the school had kept no records related to its history of child sexual abuse.208

Recommendation 5: Improving information access

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Department of Education implement:

  • trauma-informed practices for responding to requests for information and records that are related to historical child sexual abuse in government schools (including requests identified as such while being processed), including through:
    • delivery of trauma-informed training for archivists and staff in Freedom of Information units
    • development of information materials that provide transparency to people seeking records about what records may or may not be available and why
    • provision of individualised information and support to people seeking records
  • a program of work to improve its records management processes, including digitising and cataloguing records to support ease of access, and publishing school records that are able to be released publicly.

Introducing trauma-informed responses to requests for records and information

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges the challenges people have faced in seeking to access information to better understand the circumstances of experiences of child sexual abuse (whether as a victim-survivor or as a secondary victim). It also acknowledges how these challenges may have re-traumatised them.

The Board of Inquiry recommends an improved process to support and respond to information requests, along with the capability within FOI units to deliver this, in order to:

  • respond to individuals in a trauma-informed way
  • better support individuals to access information that enables them to understand what occurred and what contributes to their healing.

A trauma-informed response would include, at a minimum:

  • clear processes and guides for accessing information
  • clear information on what information is available and why
  • timely responses to information requests
  • trauma-informed training for all archivists and staff within FOI units in departments likely to receive requests for information (for example, the Department and Victoria Police)
  • individualised support from the same member of the FOI team when it is known that a person is seeking records related to historical child sexual abuse in a government school.

The Victorian Government can draw from and build on trauma-informed responses already in place elsewhere in Victoria. For example, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) responds to requests for information from Pre-1990 Care Leavers (‘Forgotten Australians’) using trauma-informed practices.209

The Board of Inquiry also notes that a person requesting information will not necessarily disclose that their request relates to historical child sexual abuse in a government school. Nevertheless, staff in FOI units should be aware that such requests are possible and respond to all requests with this possibility in mind.

The Board of Inquiry also recommends that the Department implement a program of work to review, identify, catalogue and digitise (where appropriate) all school records that may be relevant to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools. This may include teacher records, student records and class records.

The Board of Inquiry also recommends that the Department publish records that are able to be released publicly in a central online location. Existing platforms, such as Find & Connect, should be considered when designing this repository. Publication of records of this kind differs from the process of establishing an official public record of child sexual abuse in government schools (which is addressed in Recommendation 3(opens in a new window)).

Meeting the support needs of victim-survivors

In Chapter 17(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry recognised that eight key challenges adversely impact victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools’ experiences of accessing and receiving support services.

Some of these challenges are systemic in nature, including services’ limited capacity to see people quickly and to provide the necessary duration of support. Systemic challenges also include service inequity, the need for greater inclusivity, and inadequate numbers of professionals skilled in responding to trauma. The Board of Inquiry heard different ideas about how best to address these systemic issues.

On the one hand, there are those who say there may be benefit in creating stand-alone services to support victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse, including institutional child sexual abuse. Professor Patrick O’Leary, Co-Lead of the Disrupting Violence Beacon and Director of the Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith University, provided evidence that a new nationalservice that responds to historical child sexual abuse through a gendered approach may benefit victim-survivors.210 In her evidence, Professor Bromfield told the Board of Inquiry that, for male victim-survivors, those who identify as LGBTQIA+, victim-survivors with disability or those in prison, ‘specialist services … may be worth considering’.211 Some advocates have gone a step further, calling on the Commonwealth and Victorian governments to introduce a service model specifically for victim-survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.212

On the other hand, the Board of Inquiry heard concerns about introducing new services. Concerns included the potential to further fragment services,213 issues with setting up high-quality stand-alone services given the expertise that this requires,214 and financial and practical difficulties with scaling new services to a state level.215 Discussing the need for dedicated services for male victim-survivors as one example, a participant in one of the Board of Inquiry’s Services Roundtable reflected on the potential for a new service to exacerbate existing demand issues:

[W]hen we don’t have the capacity to currently meet the demand that we’re needing, how would we have the capacity to add another service into a sector that is struggling already?216

Instead, some Services Roundtable participants explained that it could be beneficial to expand the capacity and capability of existing services to better respond to historical child sexual abuse.217 Sexual Assault Services Victoria recognised that many victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse are older adults who may not easily engage with services and recommended resourcing specialist sexual assault service clinical leads for older adults specifically.218 A participant in a Services Roundtable suggested embedding specialist workers in diverse access points across the service system that victim-survivors are likely to access, including in health services.219 They recognised that for many victim-survivors, particularly men, approaching a specialist sexual assault service can be confronting and indicated that this could help reduce this barrier.220

Participants in the Board of Inquiry’s Government Roundtable shared similar views. The view was expressed that the existing specialist sexual assault support sector has the scale and expertise to respond effectively to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse, including male victim-survivors.221 Participants stressed that rather than developing new services, opportunities to leverage existing services and systems should be explored.222

On the balance of information before it, the Board of Inquiry agrees that there are opportunities to leverage existing services and systems to meet many of the support needs of victim-survivors. However, as previously discussed in Chapter 17(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry understands that existing services are under considerable strain as a result of resource pressures. The term ‘resource’ in this section covers both the level of funding available to a service and the extent of its workforce.

Addressing resource pressures in a strategic and coordinated way

Funding for specialist sexual assault services

The Board of Inquiry understands that more funding is needed to enable specialist sexual assault services to meet the needs of adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. For example, a participant in a Services Roundtable told the Board of Inquiry that services do not lack the ability or inclination to support this cohort, but that they lack the resources.223 The Board of Inquiry heard that additional resourcing and revised service delivery targets would allow support services to provide a broader range of supports to victim-survivors.224

Sexual Assault Services Victoria stated that a new funding model would enable services to have greater flexibility in the duration and types of support that they could offer victim-survivors.225 It recommended establishing a ‘new long-term funding model that enables the full scope of the work that specialist sexual assault services undertake to support victim-survivor recovery’.226

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), in its 2021 report Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (VLRC report), stated that ‘[t]he first and most crucial task of reform is to invest in sexual assault support services’.227 It recommended addressing the resourcing needs of specialist sexual assault services as a priority, and significantly increasing their resources to meet demand.228

While the Board of Inquiry agrees that funding challenges need to be resolved, it understands that funding alone would not solve the strain experienced by existing services. As described in Chapter 17(opens in a new window), workforce supply and capability challenges also make it difficult for services to meet demand and address people’s needs.

Workforce supply and capability

In her evidence, Professor Bromfield explained that more needs to be done to grow the existing pool of skilled workers and build existing workers’ capability to respond to complex trauma:

We really need to look at how we develop statewide workforce capacity-building initiatives to build the capability of both the existing workforce in responding to complex trauma and to grow the number of people who can respond to childhood trauma.229

Professor Bromfield noted that, given that the evidence base on responding to historical child sexual abuse continues to evolve, ‘an expectation around continuous professional development would be helpful in this sector’.230

Bravehearts specifically identified the need to address gaps in specialised training to ensure therapeutic and support service professionals understand the nature of child sexual abuse (including grooming), effective interventions, and how to minimise the toll that working with those who have experienced child sexual abuse can take on workers.231

A participant in a Services Roundtable told the Board of Inquiry that capability could be improved through training and upskilling staff, as well as through developing communities of practice, which allow for expertise to be shared across services.232 Another participant in a Services Roundtable highlighted the need for ‘widespread … training and support for practitioners across a range of different systems’.233

Dr Gordon also gave evidence that there is a need for ‘strong investments in supporting the clinicians so they have good supervision, [and] good opportunities for debriefing and reflective practice’ to reduce the risk of practitioner burnout.234

In 2021, the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System recommended structural workforce reforms to ensure expanded mental health services have the necessary size and composition.235 The Victorian Skills Authority, which provides advice to the Victorian Government and departments on current and future skills needs, has also produced research indicating that there is a significant need for more social sector workers.236

Reforms underway to address resource pressures

The Board of Inquiry has been told that the Victorian Government is introducing a range of reforms to help address workforce supply challenges. The DFFH advises that it is adopting strategies to increase and upskill the social services workforce. This includes offering incentives to increase the number of workers in the sector and investing in retention and skills development for existing workers.237 The DFFH told the Board of Inquiry that it is engaging with the Commonwealth Government to advocate for reforms that reduce barriers to workforce entry, such as providing more financial assistance for students on placements and increasing Commonwealth Supported Places ‘for post-graduate short courses … to build more agile specialist pathways, including for career changers’.238 It is also implementing specific workforce development activities targeted to the sexual assault support sector. For example, it is implementing funded attraction and recruitment campaigns to fill vacancies, continuing to build the longer-term pipeline of skilled workers through graduate and trainee programs about dealing with sexual assault, and reducing barriers to mobility across sectors.239

The DFFH also told the Board of Inquiry that it is ‘working to secure additional funding to services across Victoria in response to demand’ and has introduced flexible funding to meet the immediate needs of victim-survivors and remove practical barriers to accessing support (such as transport costs).240

Publicly available information reveals that work is also underway at the Commonwealth and state levels to build workforce capability to respond to child sexual abuse. The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse is promoting best practice and providing education and training to workforces. It is also undertaking a baseline analysis of the new Minimum Practice Standards for Specialist and community support services, to support their implementation.241

Another development is the funding of Sexual Assault Services Victoria to play a role in driving improvement and consistency across the sexual assault support sector. Sexual Assault Services Victoria is leading research, commissioned by the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse, to understand the specialist sector’s knowledge gaps in providing trauma-informed support for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse and to identify the training needed to address these.242

More broadly, the Victorian Government is supporting the establishment of a new Mental Health Statewide Trauma Service which would be responsible for researching trauma-informed care and practice, and disseminating its findings. It would train and provide multidisciplinary specialist trauma practitioners to work in Area Mental Health and Wellbeing Services and assist other mental health practitioners to better understand trauma-informed care.243

The Victorian Government is also introducing new reforms to improve access to services. The Victorian Government is implementing mental health reforms to improve the access of all Victorians to publicly funded therapeutic support. According to publicly available information, this includes rolling out new mental health and wellbeing services for adults and older adults, known as Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals, across Victoria.244

In the justice sector, the new Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme will replace the current VOCAT in 2024. The new scheme is designed to be more victim-centric and is intended to make it easier for all victims of violent crime to receive financial assistance, including access to counselling.245

The DFFH is also working to tailor approaches for victim-survivors who experience structural barriers to seeking support or reporting. The DFFH’s evidence to the Board of Inquiry is that it is funding specialist sexual assault services and multicultural, faith-based and ethno-specific organisations to work in partnership to improve the accessibility and cultural safety of specialist sexual assault services.246 It is also funding Sexual Assault Services Victoria to improve access to services for people with disability and people from LGBTQIA+ communities.247

Further, the Australian Law Reform Commission has commenced an inquiry into justice responses to sexual violence in Australia. Under its terms of reference, the Australian Law Reform Commission will have regard to ‘support and services available to people who have experienced sexual violence, from the period prior to reporting to the period after the conclusion of formal justice system processes’.248 It will provide a final report to the Commonwealth Attorney-General by 22 January 2025.249

Realising the effects of the reforms

It is the Board of Inquiry’s view that resource pressures affecting support services must be addressed to give services the capacity, capability and flexibility to deliver appropriate supports to adult victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools. Expanding and strengthening existing public support services would make support more accessible and reduce the number of people being forced into the private system, which may be unaffordable to them. To do this, services need to be adequately funded and there needs to be enough professionals in the specialist sexual assault sector, mental health sector (public and private) and in some community organisations with the specific knowledge and capability to effectively respond when adults disclose institutional child sexual abuse.

The Board of Inquiry recognises that the Victorian Government is trying to address complex funding and workforce challenges in a coordinated and strategic way through its reform agenda. It will take time to implement these reforms, for them to take effect and for their effectiveness to be evaluated. Given this, and given the limited scope of this inquiry, the Board of Inquiry decided not to make specific recommendations to address resource pressures.

Even so, the Board of Inquiry notes that there may be opportunities to ensure community and specialist sexual assault sector workforce reforms include training and skills development in responding to adult victim-survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. Existing mental health workforce reforms could also include training that builds practitioner capability to respond to adult disclosures of institutional child sexual abuse, given its prevalence and that many victim-survivors often engage first with mental health services.

The Board of Inquiry also notes that existing services need to be supported to use learnings from research and translate knowledge into practice. This includes ensuring there is investment in ongoing professional development, which services need the capacity for their workers to be able to undertake without compromising the duration or time they can spend delivering support to victim-survivors and other consumers.

Targeted supports

Aside from the systemic challenges described earlier, the Board of Inquiry believes that there are specific and targeted improvements that can be introduced into existing systems to better meet the needs of victim-survivors. They involve improving:

  • access to information and advice to assist victim-survivors to understand the available options
  • support to navigate services to assist victim-survivors to access support more easily
  • ensuring victim-survivors can receive timely support from specialist sexual assault support services and these services are seen as accessible to all genders.

The Board of Inquiry’s recommendations are directed towards helping adults who have experienced child sexual abuse in government schools. However, the Victorian Government may find some of these improvements could meet the needs of other adults who have experienced sexual assault. In some instances, the information received by the Board of Inquiry has allowed it to recommend targeted service improvements that expand beyond supporting only victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, to include adults who have experienced child sexual abuse in any institution or in any setting. However, while there are common needs in some areas, some responses need to be specifically focused on victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools. In its recommendations, the Board of Inquiry has therefore been specific about which cohort the advised service improvements should target.

Strengthening access to information and assistance

Service providers told the Board of Inquiry that all victim-survivors would benefit from information sources that demonstrate a deep understanding of historical child sexual abuse and provide advice and tools to manage its impacts.250 Specifically, the Board of Inquiry heard that victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools should have access to targeted information and advice that reflects their experience and needs.251

The Board of Inquiry notes that work is already underway at the national level to help victim-survivors of child sexual abuse to access better information and advice. The Commonwealth Government is establishing a national point of referral to assist victim-survivors of child sexual abuse.252 Its aim will be to help victim-survivors, practitioners and the general public to ‘navigate the service system and access information, resources and support services’.253

While it is likely to be beneficial, the national point of referral is not targeted to address the specific information needs of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools. Some of these needs are unique to this cohort. For example, victim-survivors in this cohort may require specific information or advice about how to access and interpret their school records, or how to access the Department’s Counselling Assistance Payments. They may need information tailored to their needs about how to pursue civil claims or how to participate in redress schemes.

A participant in a Services Roundtable told the Board of Inquiry they have the capability to create and provide information and resources for all Victorian victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse, but that a lack of funding was a barrier to doing so.254 Sexual Assault Services Victoria recommended that the Victorian Government fund it to develop a website that includes practical information and resources for current and historical survivors of child sexual abuse, informed by VLRC report recommendations.255 The VLRC recommended the establishment of a central website to provide people with practical information on sexual violence and their options for support, reporting and justice.256

The Board of Inquiry notes that such a website could be helpful for victim-survivors, but considers that adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools should have access to centralised information and assistance that is specific to their needs. The Board of Inquiry also understands that the Victorian Government is still considering the VLRC report recommendations.

As discussed earlier in the Chapter, in early 2023, the Department introduced the Sexual Harm Response Unit to better support schools in responding to instances of alleged child sexual abuse perpetrated against current students and former students.257 Since then, the Department has expanded the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s scope so that it can receive reports of historical child sexual abuse via a direct telephone line and email address.258 The Department
advised that the Sexual Harm Response Unit can now provide assistance to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools about services and referrals through this telephone line.259 The Department has also updated the Victorian Government website to include more information about support services, the National Redress Scheme, VOCAT, apologies and acknowledgements, as well as information about making a legal claim against the Department to seek compensation.260

The Department advised the Board of Inquiry that the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s involvement in historical child sexual abuse matters is currently quite limited and it is not involved in the majority of cases.261 However, the Department’s evidence was that the expansion of the Sexual Harm Response Unit to receive historical reports of child sexual abuse in government schools provides an opportunity for the Department to support these victim-survivors.262

The Board of Inquiry is supportive of the Department’s work to expand the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s function to better support schools to respond to allegations of current and historical child sexual abuse in government schools. The Board of Inquiry considers that this work needs to continue to expand to ensure that all students, current and former, are well supported and that schools have the capability to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse safely, consistently and appropriately.

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges and supports the Department’s recent steps to establish and improve access to information and assistance for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse directly through the Sexual Harm Response Unit. The Board of Inquiry is of the view that further opportunities exist to build on this work and ensure adult victim-survivors’ access to information and assistance continues to improve.

The Board of Inquiry considers that the Department is best placed to be the central point of information and initial assistance for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in schools. This is because the Sexual Harm Response Unit already has an existing function assisting this cohort, and the Department holds a substantial amount of information that may be useful to victim-survivors.

Being responsible for the centralised information and assistance point also affords the Department the opportunity to build its capability to directly engage with victim-survivors and flexibly support them to access support and pathways that best meet their needs. This also provides the basis for the Department to start building the necessary new functions and capabilities needed to undertake personal responses as part of restorative engagement pathways. These actions together would help to build trust in the Department over time, as the Department continues to hold itself accountable for past harms and takes responsibility for restorative engagement with victim-survivors.

To do this, the Board of Inquiry sees value in the Department broadening the existing remit of the Sexual Harm Response Unit to provide a more centralised information and initial assistance hub and telephone line for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools, as well as to provide support and advice to engage with the Department’s processes, such as the process for seeking records. The information and evidence received by the Board of Inquiry suggests that the online hub and telephone line would be beneficial for all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools, not just victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse. This is because all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools may struggle to find information about supports, experience trauma that impacts their ability to navigate complex systems, and may benefit from having a centralised place to seek information and assistance about their specific needs.

Recommendation 6: A new online hub and telephone line providing information and assistance for adult victim-survivors

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Department of Education establish an online hub and telephone line for adults who are victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools to seek information and initial assistance.

Components of implementation

PROVIDING INFORMATION IN AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE AND TRAUMA-INFORMED WAY

In establishing the online hub, the Department should seek to ensure that the information provided is comprehensive and tailored to adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools. This means it should provide information that addresses the wide range of support needs that victim-survivors have and options available to them. This includes information about:

  • available support services across the different systems
  • justice pathways, including the National Redress Scheme and civil litigation
  • financial assistance schemes such as VOCAT (and the new Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme when it replaces VOCAT)
  • reporting alleged child sexual abuse in government schools (current and historical) to police
  • how to engage with the Department to request information and records related to child sexual abuse in government schools
  • how to engage with the Board of Inquiry’s recommended truth-telling process and new restorative engagement program from the Department.

The Victorian Government already has an existing ‘Report abuse if you’re a current or former student’ webpage which could be expanded and amended to build the online hub. Regardless of whether this page is amended or a new website is created, the online hub and its information should be trauma-informed, welcoming and accessible to victim-survivors. This includes making it clear that the online hub is for all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools, regardless of whether they want to directly engage with the Department, report their experience to police or choose not to take further action. It should also be clear about what options are only available to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools (for example, the recommended truth-telling and accountability process) and those that are available to all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools. The information should also be inclusive and meet the diverse communication needs of victim-survivors.

The Board of Inquiry considers that designing the online hub in close consultation with victim-survivors is important to ensuring these objectives are met.

OFFERING INITIAL ASSISTANCE

While online information on supports and schemes alone may be sufficient for some people, others may also need some initial assistance to help them understand the options available to them. A telephone helpline accessible through the online hub should be offered for this purpose.

The Board of Inquiry considers that the Sexual Harm Response Unit is well placed to provide initial assistance to victim-survivors, given that the Unit already plays a role in supporting adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools to understand their support options. The Sexual Harm Response Unit should continue to expand this function to ensure it has the capability to provide initial high-level assistance to victim-survivors about their options. This could include explaining how to contact a support service or access a scheme, or helping someone to understand the difference between support options. The Sexual Harm Response Unit would not be responsible for providing detailed and comprehensive advice about options in the service system more broadly that would best meet an individual’s needs. This responsibility would sit with the coordination, navigation and advocacy function recommended in the next section (Recommendation 7)(opens in a new window).

In addition to providing information and initial assistance, the Sexual Harm Response Unit should also continue to build its capability and capacity to provide more detailed advice and support to victim-survivors who wish to engage in any processes administered by the Department. This includes seeking information and records from the Department (Recommendation 5)(opens in a new window), seeking a direct personal response from the Department (Recommendation 4)(opens in a new window) or reporting allegations of child sexual abuse to the Department. Importantly, the function should be independent of other parts of the Department (such as the area responsible for civil claims) to ensure it is safe for victim-survivors. The Board of Inquiry notes that the Unit’s role in supporting people while they are participating in a civil claims or redress process would be more limited, but it would still be available to direct them to information as needed.

ENSURING THE ONLINE HUB AND TELEPHONE LINE ARE SAFE, TRAUMA-INFORMED AND TRUSTED

To ensure victim-survivors are aware of the online hub and telephone line, these services should be well publicised through departmental channels, including school communications, and through advocacy and support organisations. Other relevant Victorian Government websites should also reference the online hub and include links for victim-survivors. This includes websites such as the DFFH webpages on sexual assault and supports, the Victims of Crime website and the Victorian Government webpage on the National Redress Scheme.

The Sexual Harm Response Unit should make sure that it can provide assistance in a trauma-informed way. Staff tasked with supporting this work should have training to understand the particular trauma impacts experienced by adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools. They need a basic working understanding of the service systems and options available for victim-survivors and have the knowledge and skills to be able to explain these options to victim-survivors clearly and compassionately. Staff providing initial assistance should also build the capability and flexibility to support victim-survivors to change pathways where needed.

Recognising that staff would need to refer some victim-survivors to specialist sexual assault services for support, the Department and the DFFH should develop new protocols between the online hub and telephone line and specialist sexual assault services to support smooth referral pathways for victim-survivors and access to timely support.

Public-facing material should also be clear about who the online hub and telephone line services are for, to avoid confusion for other victim-survivors. Staff would also need to have the capability to sensitively redirect other cohorts who may contact the telephone line (for example, an adult who has experienced familial child sexual abuse) to more suitable entry points and refer them to appropriate services where necessary.

KEEPING UP TO DATE

The Board of Inquiry notes that service systems are constantly changing, as are service responses to child sexual abuse and sexual assault more broadly. The Sexual Harm Response Unit should stay informed about existing and proposed new service offerings, and raise awareness of them through the online information and advice hub. For example, and as indicated earlier, the Board of Inquiry notes that a national point of referral is being established. While the online hub and telephone line would not seek to replicate this initiative, once it is established there would be opportunities to ensure victim-survivors are aware of the national point of referral and are engaged with the best supports available to them.

Improving coordination, navigation and advocacy supports

As discussed in Chapter 17(opens in a new window), some victim-survivors require more than just episodic assistance to move through complex systems and services. They need informed advice, help navigating processes and services, and support to complete forms. Some people would also benefit from a consistent point to which they can return in order to re-engage with services over their life course when the need arises.

Other cohorts who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse already have access to dedicated coordination, navigation and advocacy support. For example, the Victorian Government funds statewide advocacy and support services for Pre-1990 Care Leavers (‘Forgotten Australians’).263 The support these services provide can include assistance with locating family members and support to access records and ward files.264 They also include coordinated support that assists with service referrals, casework, exploring support options, completing forms and advocacy.265 The Commonwealth Government funds Find & Connect support services, including the website discussed earlier in this chapter, to provide information for Pre-1990 Care Leavers (‘Forgotten Australians’) and support for them to access their records.266

Dr Joe Tucci, CEO, Australian Childhood Foundation, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry recommending the introduction of a new stand-alone service that would provide a single point of contact for victim-survivors that could directly link them with the range of supports they need over their life course.267 Dr Tucci’s evidence set out how this would be different to what the specialist sexual assault services currently provide, noting their services are generally therapeutic and they do not provide ‘more general support over the life course’.268

This type of solution to address coordination and navigation challenges is not new. Other reviews have previously recommended introducing new coordination, navigation and advocacy supports for broader cohorts who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. In 2017, the Royal Commission recommended new community-based supports for victim-survivors of institutional child sexual abuse that can provide navigation support, among other things.269 Recent advocacy and petitions have called for governments to implement the Royal Commission’s reforms and ensure a ‘no wrong door’ support.270

In 2021, the VLRC recommended a model of independent advocates to provide continuous support to victim-survivors of sexual violence navigating legal and service systems.271 The VLRC’s recommendation was informed by broad consultation and research and its findings suggest that the independent advocate model (or something similar) is widely supported by stakeholders.272 The VLRC suggested that such a model could be introduced into specialist sexual assault services as a starting point, but noted their role in providing this type of function has decreased over time as waitlists and referrals have increased.273

The Board of Inquiry is of the view that adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in schools shouldhave access to a service or function that provides dedicated coordination, navigation and advocacy support, equivalent to supports offered to other institutional child sexual abuse survivors. The information and evidence received by the Board of Inquiry suggests all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in schools would benefit from this function for the same reasons as they would benefit from the online hub and telephone line (Recommendation 6).(opens in a new window) The Board of Inquiry has therefore not limited the recommendation to victim-survivors of historical sexual abuse in government schools only.

Recommendation 7: Improved coordination, navigation and advocacy support

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Victorian Government, in consultation with victim-survivors, develop and trial a coordination, navigation and advocacy function for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in schools.

Components of implementation

The coordination, navigation and advocacy function would be responsible for assisting adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in schools to engage with and move between support services and systems. This may include the following:

  • light-touch support, to help connect people with a support service or system, including assisting them with completing application forms for schemes, making warm referrals to services, helping people to re-engage with a service that they have previously used or supporting victim-survivors to understand and exercise their rights
  • more intensive support, to help people with complex needs engage with services or systems where required; for example, supporting them to report to police or make a civil claim, liaising and advocating on behalf of a person to access services, or completing application forms on a person’s behalf.

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that over time, existing capability and capacity within services to deliver this type of coordination, navigation and advocacy function has eroded due to demand pressures and workforce constraints. While parts of this function still exist — such as the counsellor advocates role in specialist sexual assault services — the capability to deliver the broader function has diminished across services. The Board of Inquiry therefore recommends that the Victorian Government undertake the following steps to design and implement the new function:

  • As a starting point, work in consultation with service providers, victim-survivors and peak bodies to design the function, including identifying the contemporary capabilities and skills needed to successfully deliver the function within current system settings.
  • Identify appropriate existing services (or if necessary, introduce a new stand-alone service) that have the right skills, expertise and capabilities to deliver the function.
  • In consultation with stakeholders, develop and deliver appropriate training to these services that would grow and embed capability to deliver the new function successfully.
  • Trial the function and evaluate how effective the function is over time for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in schools. If the function is providing positive outcomes for victim-survivors, the Board of Inquiry considers that there could be merit in the Victorian Government exploring opportunities to expand the offering to other cohorts (noting the value of such a function for wider cohorts has already been evidenced in previous reviews).

The Board of Inquiry is not in a position to recommend the specific service provider that would be responsible for delivering the function, given the specific capabilities and skills needed to deliver the function have yet to be designed. The Victorian Government should explore which services already have some existing capability and skills that could be used to deliver the function. For example, specialist sexual assault services already provide counsellor advocates.274 Similarly, some services funded to deliver the Victims Assistance Program (VAP) may also have some of the capability and expertise necessary to deliver the function. While unable to recommend a specific provider, the Board of Inquiry considers that the function should be designed in line with the following minimum features:

  • The service delivering the support should be appropriately trained and skilled in working with adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in a trauma-informed way, and have a deep, broad and technical understanding of what service offerings are available, how they meet people’s needs, and how to move between and around services and systems.
  • The chosen service also needs to be recognised and respected by other services and systems in order for the function to be able to successfully provide advocacy, liaison and referral support when required.
  • Victim-survivors should be able to refer themselves to the function. Other agencies or services should also be able to refer people to the function.
  • Victim-survivors should be able to easily re-engage with the function over their life course if symptoms of their trauma re-emerge, enabling them to quickly and easily seek necessary supports. The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that this does not mean a victim-survivor would be able to re-engage with the same staff member every time, but would have a single service they could contact when their needs change.
  • The function should not duplicate work already undertaken by existing services, such as the VAP’s role in helping people to navigate justice pathways; rather, it should collaborate with existing services to better coordinate the support provided by services and systems.
  • The function should be located within a service or services where people are most likely to engage early. Access should not be conditional on a person using that service for any other support. Consideration should be given to offering the function through a range of different services to provide diverse access points.
  • The function should be independent from formal reporting mechanisms for the investigation of sexual abuse.

In designing the model, the Board of Inquiry considers it would be beneficial for the Victorian Government to consider the features of similar proposed models canvassed in the VLRC report.275

STRENGTHENING COLLABORATION AT THE SAME TIME

To ensure the coordination, navigation and advocacy function is as effective as possible, the Board of Inquiry notes that successful collaboration and coordination between support services and systems is also essential.

Some reforms have already been implemented or have been recommended to help improve service collaboration. For example, in response to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, the Victorian Government has introduced new guidance for Victorian mental health and wellbeing and alcohol and other drug services to ensure coordinated treatment, care and support for people with co-occurring mental illness and substance use or addiction.276 The model is based on the ‘no wrong door’ principle discussed above.277

The DFFH’s evidence during the public hearings was that it is also addressing challenges the specialist sexual assault sector and the community services sector have collaborated with each other by ‘doing some work to strengthen partnerships across sexual assault services and disability services, multicultural services and LGBTIQ[A+] services’.278 Sexual Assault Services Victoria recommended to the Board of Inquiry that the Victorian Government also fund a collaborative project between sexual assault support services and services in the mental health and alcohol and drug sectors.279

The DFFH also gave evidence that a new multidisciplinary centre in Shepparton was scheduled to be opened in December 2023.280 While the VLRC report found that multidisciplinary centres are achieving their aims, it also noted that there are opportunities for further improvements and that they should not be the only collaborative model used.281

The VLRC report also found that, in general, collaboration between services responding to sexual violence could be improved.282 It recommended several ways to improve coordination and collaboration across the system. This included conducting an independent review of collaboration between those working to respond to sexual violence and a statewide, multi-agency protocol for responding to sexual violence.283 The Board of Inquiry understands these recommendations have not yet been implemented.

The Board of Inquiry agrees that an independent review of collaboration, as recommended in the VLRC report, is needed. The Board of Inquiry also supports the introduction of multi-agency protocols to improve service connectivity and collaboration across the service systems responding to sexual violence, including institutional child sexual abuse.

The Board of Inquiry considers that conducting a review and introducing multi-agency protocols would help improve referral processes, clarify roles and responsibilities, and identify and address gaps in responsibility, all of which could also help to improve the navigability of services over time.

Improving service responses for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse

The Board of Inquiry has identified two areas where service responses for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse can be improved in the short term, while larger-scale systemic reform is underway.

First, it is important to resolve the lack of formalised peer support for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse outlined in Chapter 17(opens in a new window). As explained in that Chapter, peer support groups that allow people to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences help people to heal or seek further support. Dr Tucci gave evidence that while there is power in peer support groups being self-generated, integrating them into the service system could ensure that they are better resourced.284

Formalised peer support models have already been introduced in at least one other jurisdiction. The Survivors & Mates Support Network (SAMSN) is a peer support model based in New South Wales that provides support for male victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. SAMSN provides professionally facilitated peer-to-peer connection through eight-week support groups, as well as a Peer Support Line through which victim-survivors can ‘talk to a mate who can relate’.285 Participants in the Lived Experience Roundtable spoke positively about SAMSN’s model.286

A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that they would like to see the establishment of peer support groups for female victim-survivors who have experienced historic child sexual abuse at school.287

The Board of Inquiry considers that peer support programs are a significant form of support for many adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. Introducing a more formalised peer support program for this cohort in Victoria would be likely to provide victim-survivors with more targeted support that directly addresses some of their needs.

Further, the Board of Inquiry considers that there are two opportunities to improve some victim-survivors’ ability to access specialist sexual assault services in a timely way. The first of these is developing a consistent approach to the ways in which adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse can access specialist sexual assault services in a timely way, based on their needs.

The second of these opportunities is reviewing and updating public information about specialist sexual assault services to grow awareness that these services are available and responsive to all genders. As discussed, while specialist sexual assault services are already inclusive and responsive to all genders, they are not always visible to, or seen as appropriate by, male victim-survivors. This is particularly important in view of the significant cohort of older men in Australia who report having experienced sexual abuse as a child in an institution.288

During the Government Roundtable, State representatives noted that updating the public-facing material of sexual assault services could facilitate better communication about what the services deliver and how they respond to diverse communities, including men.289 A participant in a Services Roundtable similarly highlighted that services could provide clearer information to communicate that their services are also available for men, but that this would require resourcing.290

Recommendation 8: A targeted program of work to improve service responses

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Victorian Government design and implement a targeted program of work to improve service responses to adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. This includes:

  • in consultation with victim-survivors, designing, developing and implementing a formal peer support program for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse
  • in consultation with sexual assault support services and Sexual Assault Services Victoria, develop a consistent approach to how adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse may access sexual assault support services in a timely way
  • reviewing and updating public-facing information of sexual assault support services to grow awareness that services are available for and responsive to people of all genders.

Components of implementation

A FORMAL PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM

The peer support program should be co-designed with adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse to make sure it meets their needs. The program should be:

  • available and accessible to people in multiple locations across Victoria, noting that victim-survivors may live regionally
  • accessible in person or online, as informed by the needs of victim-survivors
  • inclusive and providing support options that meet the diverse needs of victim-survivors. The program should be developed with clear eligibility guidelines that consider and cater for cohort needs. For example, some victim-survivors may benefit from gender-specific peer support options, or from groups that allow them to engage with others who have experienced child sexual abuse in similar settings or ways. The Board of Inquiry has therefore not limited the recommendation to victim-survivors of historical sexual abuse in government schools only.
  • developed and implemented in a way that is trauma-informed, safe and is appropriately connected to and overseen by clinical professionals who can offer therapeutic guidance and provide education, advice and to support to peer groups as needed
  • facilitated by peer leaders who have been supported to access trauma-informed training and peer facilitation training to ensure they have the capability and confidence to safely lead the program.

The Board of Inquiry notes that there are several peer support models already in existence that could inform the design of a Victorian peer support program. This includes SAMSN, as discussed above, and The Survivor Hub. These programs provide peer support for people impacted by sexual abuse in Sydney. Any implementation of similar models should be informed by evaluations of such programs.

IMPROVED ACCESS TO SPECIALIST SEXUAL ASSAULT SERVICES

The Victorian Government should examine how long adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse are currently waiting to access specialist sexual assault services, in order to:

  • understand what barriers or challenges might be preventing victim-survivors from receiving support in a timely way
  • identify opportunities and solutions to ensure that adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse can access sexual assault service supports when they need them.

Solutions should be designed in consultation with Sexual Assault Services Victoria and specialist sexual assault services so that a consistent approach to how victim-survivors access these services is implemented — and in a way that does not disadvantage other cohorts.

In developing the solutions, the Board of Inquiry considers that it is appropriate and necessary for adult victim-survivors to have to wait for a reasonable period of time to access a service if they are not in crisis. However, no-one should have to wait for long periods of time even if they are ‘coping’, as quick responses might mean a person does not experience a crisis in the first place. During any waiting period, victim-survivors should be provided with a ‘holding service’ that can provide a quick check-in or referrals to other relevant services, so they are not left waiting on their own for the entire period of time.

GENDER-INCLUSIVE PUBLIC FACING INFORMATION

To ensure specialist sexual assault services are readily recognisable as gender-inclusive and to mitigate any perceptions that services are for women only, existing public-facing information, such as colour palettes, logos, language and imagery, should be reviewed and amended. Changes need not be made to the names of existing services.

This work should be accompanied by raising awareness — including in organisations that provide referrals to specialist sexual assault services — aimed at increasing understanding of the supports these services can provide to people of all genders.

The work should also extend to online information, including the information on the DFFH’s website, and the Victorian Government should work with Sexual Assault Services Victoria to ensure that any public material it produces about support services has gender-neutral information, language and branding.

The Board of Inquiry was told about at least one specialist sexual assault service that has positioned itself to be responsive to men through language changes, and that as a result the service has seen more male victim-survivors access its supports.291 The Board of Inquiry considers this a positive step and believes there is merit in ensuring that all specialist sexual assault services adopt a consistent approach to language that is gender-inclusive.

The information and evidence received by the Board of Inquiry suggests that all adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse would benefit from improved access to specialist sexual assault services and gender-inclusive public-facing information. The Board of Inquiry has therefore not limited the recommendation to victim-survivors of historical sexual abuse in government schools only.

Ensuring a joined-up and strategic approach to implementation

Additional funding to enable implementation

As discussed in Chapter 17(opens in a new window) and further reiterated in this Chapter, services are facing significant capacity challenges which are leaving them stretched and struggling to meet growing demand for supports.

In line with the Order in Council, the Board of Inquiry’s report aims to help develop a shared understanding, among all Victorians, of the impact of that historical child sexual abuse on victim-survivors, secondary victims, affected communities, and society.292 To do this, it raises awareness about the issue of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, and also discusses the available support services available to victim-survivors. It is highly likely that services would experience a demand peak as a result of the Board of Inquiry’s work, and the associated public commentary.

Further, the Board of Inquiry anticipates that specialist sexual assault services would experience additional time-limited demand peaks as a direct result of its recommendations, if implemented. This includes:

  • introduction of a statewide truth-telling and accountability process that would likely see new waves of victim-survivors coming forward to access support for the first time or again
  • more victim-survivors assisted to access support services as a result of the new online information and assistance hub and the coordination, navigation and advocacy function
  • new protocols between the Department and the DFFH to help victim-survivors receive timely access to specialist sexual assault support services once referred
  • improved awareness of the inclusivity of specialist sexual assault services for all genders.

The Board of Inquiry does not think it is appropriate or possible to expect existing services to provide these new functions or meet increased demand within their current budgets. To do so would be likely to result in unsuccessful implementation, see more people referred to specialist sexual assault services with six- to 12-month waitlists, or the redirection of resources away from other critical and important support offerings to enable implementation. The Board of Inquiry is of the view that additional funding is needed to implement services and make sure that services have the capacity to respond to the associated demand peaks.

Strong oversight and governance

The Board of Inquiry is aware that its recommendations, if implemented, would be introduced into an already complex system.

To avoid fragmentation, and to ensure collaboration and coordination of effort, the Board of Inquiry sees merit in establishing a governance mechanism to oversee implementation of recommendations or using an existing mechanism for that purpose. This governance mechanism could include all departments and agencies responsible for implementing the various components of the recommendations. It would be responsible for:

  • developing a strategic roadmap to ensure that reforms are implemented in a joined-up way, that their implementation is properly sequenced and that collaboration in the service system is strengthened
  • developing a service and system implementation plan, in consultation with relevant services, to ensure implementation does not inadvertently cause service challenges for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools or other cohorts.

The governance mechanism could also be responsible for:

  • designing and implementing a work program
  • ensuring that service improvements are informed by reform directions and improvements happening across service systems more broadly, and are integrated with these reform plans where appropriate.

Protection of personal information

Throughout its work, the Board of Inquiry has committed to conducting itself in way that is inclusive and sensitive to the trauma that is associated with child sexual abuse. In doing so, it has endeavoured to place the needs and preferences of victim-survivors at the centre of its work, while complying with its procedural fairness obligations.

The choice and control of victim-survivors, secondary victims, affected community members, and organisations who chose to engage with the Board of Inquiry was paramount to how personal information provided to the Board of Inquiry was treated. These participants could choose to have their information treated confidentially, anonymously or publicly. The Board of Inquiry respected those preferences, including in its public hearings and report.

This was an important feature of the Board of Inquiry’s conduct — some victim-survivors were disclosing child sexual abuse for the first time in their lives, others were involved in criminal and civil proceedings or may be in the future; all were sharing deeply personal information. Choice and control over how personal information was shared supported individuals to engage with the Board of Inquiry in a safe, open and trauma-informed way. The information provided was fundamental to the Board of Inquiry’s work.

Treatment of information was also important in relation to the Board of Inquiry’s procedural fairness obligations, noting that the Board of Inquiry received information about the alleged perpetrators which has not been legally tested in court.

As explored in Chapter 2, Operations(opens in a new window), since its establishment the Board of Inquiry has been mindful of decommissioning the inquiry in a considered way. Importantly, this includes how personal information shared with the Board of Inquiry is managed after the inquiry ends.

Some of the records held by the Board of Inquiry are subject to restricted publication orders it made under section 73 of the Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic) (Inquiries Act). As explained in Chapter 1, Establishment and approach(opens in a new window), these orders limit the publication of information that could identify victim-survivors or alleged perpetrators. The Board of Inquiry expects these orders will continue to have effect after it ceases to exist, although these orders will only apply in accordance with their terms.

In considering its decommissioning approach, the Board of Inquiry was aware of a gap in current legislation that may be relevant to how its information is treated after the inquiry ends.

For example, at the conclusion of the Board of Inquiry, its records will transfer to the Department of Premier and Cabinet and then onto the Public Record Office Victoria for archiving.293 At that time, relevant ministers may declare the records to be ‘closed’ from general public access for certain reasons, including that the records contain matters of such a private or personal nature that they should not be open for public inspection.294 In practice, the most sensitive records are closed for periods of 75 to 99 years.295

Despite this, the Board of Inquiry’s transferred records will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) and accordingly may be requested by, and in certain circumstances released to, the public (subject to the provisions of that Act). While the Board of Inquiry expects that some of its records may be withheld from release on the basis of relevant exemptions, these decisions will be made by the Victorian Government (not the Board of Inquiry).

While section 80 of the Inquiries Act prevents certain uses of information provided to the Board of Inquiry in criminal and civil proceedings, questions arise in relation to the scope of section 80,296 including the ways in which the information may still be permissibly used (for example, informing the development of a defence to a proceeding). Further, section 80 does not preclude access to the information, including under the Freedom of Information Act.297

Other inquiries established under the Inquiries Act have also identified the need for legislative reform, including the Yoorrook Justice Commission. The Yoorrook Justice Commission found that there is no mechanism for it to guarantee the information shared with it will be kept confidential once it finishes its work.298 The Yoorrook Justice Commission recommended that, by 29 February 2024, the Victorian Government create new statutory protections for public records that ensure that information shared on a confidential basis remains confidential for a minimum of 99 years once they are transferred to the Victorian Government.299

While the gaps in current legislation are small, and while the Board of Inquiry considers the risk of confidential and anonymous information being released to be remote, this is a risk that should not exist.

Similar concerns were raised at the Commonwealth level in relation to the treatment of information in national commissions, inquiries and truth-telling processes. In response, the Royal Commissions Amendment (Enhancing Engagement) Act 2023 (Cth) was introduced to ensure that personal or confidential information disclosed to royal commissions is protected after the life of a commission. This includes exempting documents received from a royal commission from the Commonwealth’s freedom of information legislation.300

The Board of Inquiry has consulted at length with the Victorian Government, the future custodian of its records once the Board of Inquiry ceases to exist, to ensure as far as possible under Victorian law that the preferences of those who provided personal information to the Board of Inquiry are respected. This seeks to ensure that personal information that is confidential, anonymous or sensitive remains confidential. In February 2024, the Chair wrote to the Premier, The Hon Jacinta Allan MP, outlining these matters.

The Board of Inquiry recommends legislative reform to the Inquiries Act to ensure that personal information that an inquiry identifies as confidential, anonymous or sensitive and is transferred to the Victorian Government, remains confidential for a minimum of 99 years after the records are transferred to it.

Given the Board of Inquiry’s recommendation relates to all future Victorian inquiries, the precise scope of application of such a mechanism would be a matter for the Victorian Government to consider in the design of any legislative reform. In this Board of Inquiry, personal information that is sensitive included, for example, information that may prejudice a criminal or civil proceeding. In designing any legislative reform, the Victorian Government would also need to balance the benefits of such a mechanism with maintaining appropriate accountability, transparency and scrutiny of inquiries themselves.

This legislative amendment should apply to all Victorian inquiries and should be applied retrospectively to this Board of Inquiry’s records (without affecting the continued application of any restricted publication orders made by the Board of Inquiry). This would ensure that all future inquiries, especially those with a truth-telling focus, can uphold the needs, preferences and choices of participants and all people are empowered to safely share their experiences.

Recommendation 9: Legislative reform to ensure the enduring protection of personal information provided to boards of inquiry

The Board of Inquiry recommends the Victorian Government amend the Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic) to ensure that personal information identified by the relevant board of inquiry as confidential, anonymous or sensitive:

  • is kept confidential for a minimum of 99 years following the end of a board of inquiry
  • be exempted from the application of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) for a minimum of 99 years following the end of a board of inquiry.

These changes should apply retrospectively to this Board of Inquiry.

Conclusion

The Board of Inquiry has heard extraordinary stories of resilience in the face of child sexual abuse and recovery from the damaging effects of this abuse. However, it is clear that many victim-survivors continue to suffer in silence or fail to be provided with the support and acknowledgement they deserve.

The Board of Inquiry was established — in part — to begin a process of healing. It worked to contribute to this by ensuring that victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members experienced its own processes and people as validating and compassionate. The Board of Inquiry has been heartened by those who have recognised these efforts and found them thoughtful, affirming or empowering.

However, healing is a long journey for many. People who shared their experiences with the Board of Inquiry are at different stages of this journey. The recommendations set out in this Chapter are intended to ensure that they — alongside other victim-survivors of child sexual abuse — can continue to move towards a life that is not defined by the sexual abuse they experienced.

Initiatives aimed at acknowledging the prevalence and impact of child sexual abuse in government schools, and accepting accountability for the harm done, are critical. However, these initiatives must be accompanied by a support services system that is equipped to respond to the unique needs of these adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse as they process their experiences and reclaim their hope for the future.

Chapter 18 Endnotes

  1. Hazel Blunden et al., ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 60.
  2. ‘Vic Premier Andrews Holds Joint News Conference’, (Nine News, 28 June 2023).
  3. ‘Vic Premier Andrews Holds Joint News Conference’, (Nine News, 28 June 2023).
  4. ‘Vic Premier Andrews Holds Joint News Conference’, (Nine News, 28 June 2023).
  5. Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 8 February 2024, 247 (Jacinta Allan, Bendigo East – Premier).
  6. Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 8 February 2024, 250 (Jacinta Allan, Bendigo East – Premier).
  7. Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 27 November 2019, 4501 (Daniel Andrews, Premier).
  8. Deborah Glass OBE, ‘Investigation into Child Sex Offender Robert Whitehead’s Involvement with Puffing Billy and Other Railway Bodies’, Victorian Ombudsman (Web Page) <https://www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au/our-impact/investigation-reports/investigation-into-child-sex-offender-robert-whiteheads-involvement-with-puffing-billy-and-other-railway-bodies/#full-report>(opens in a new window).
  9. Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 27 November 2019, 4501–2 (Daniel Andrews, Premier).
  10. Commonwealth, Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 22 October 2018, 10560–4 (Scott Morrison, Prime Minister).
  11. Commonwealth, Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 13 February 2008, 167–71 (Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister).
  12. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 58.
  13. Anne-Marie McAlinden, ‘Apologies as “Shame Management”: The Politics of Remorse in the Aftermath of Historical Institutional Abuse’ (2022) 42 Legal Studies 137, 138.
  14. Anne-Marie McAlinden, ‘Apologies as “Shame Management”: The Politics of Remorse in the Aftermath of Historical Institutional Abuse’ (2022) 42 Legal Studies 137, 143.
  15. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 58–9.
  16. Family and Community Development Committee, Parliament of Victoria, Betrayal of Trust: Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations (Parliamentary Paper No 275, November 2013) 99.
  17. Submission 29, Bravehearts, 5.
  18. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 60.
  19. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-50 [28].
  20. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-50 [30]–[35].
  21. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 15 [74]–[75].
  22. Private session 2.
  23. Private session 6.
  24. Private session 22.
  25. Private session 26.
  26. Private session 34.
  27. Private session 7.
  28. Private session 4.
  29. Private session 9.
  30. Private session 14.
  31. Private session 23.
  32. Private session 24.
  33. Private session 39.
  34. Private session 18.
  35. Private session 20.
  36. Private session 20.
  37. Private session 10.
  38. Private session 19.
  39. Private session 40.
  40. Private session 37.
  41. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-210 [7] – P-211 [27]; Jenny Atta, ‘Statement from the Secretary, Department of Education’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/statement-jenny-atta-secretary-department-education>(opens in a new window) Appendix J.
  42. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-210 [9]–[12]. Note there are some small changes in style between the transcript and the apology published on the Department’s website.
  43. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-211 [13]–[16].
  44. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-211 [22]–[23].
  45. Transcript of David Howes, 16 November 2023, P-191 [15]–[18].
  46. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-50 [40]–[43].
  47. Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, Farida Shaheed: Memorialization Processes, UN Doc A/HRC/49 (23 January 2014) 4.
  48. Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, Farida Shaheed: Memorialization Processes, UN Doc A/HRC/49 (23 January 2014) 5.
  49. Alison Atkinson-Phillips, ‘Commemorating Childhood Loss and Trauma: Survivor Memorials in Australia’ (2020) 32(2) Historic Environment 54, 56.
  50. Transcript of Adrian Farrer, 24 November 2023, P-304 [39]–[45].
  51. Transcript of Maureen Hatcher, 24 November 2023, P-296 [45]–[46].
  52. Alison Atkinson-Phillips, ‘Commemorating Childhood Loss and Trauma: Survivor Memorials in Australia’ (2020) 32(2) Historic Environment 54, 58.
  53. Alison Atkinson-Phillips, ‘Commemorating Childhood Loss and Trauma: Survivor Memorials in Australia’ (2020) 32(2) Historic Environment 54, 57–9.
  54. ‘Stolen Generations Memorial Plaques’, Future Transport (Web Page) <https://www.future.transport.nsw.gov.au/case-studies/stolen-generations-memorial-plaques>(opens in a new window).
  55. Alexa Sardina and Nicole Fox, ‘America’s First Memorial Honoring Survivors of Sexual Violence’ (2022)
    37(17–18) Journal of Interpersonal Violence NP14914, NP14915.
  56. Alexa Sardina and Nicole Fox, ‘America’s First Memorial Honoring Survivors of Sexual Violence’ (2022)
    37(17–18) Journal of Interpersonal Violence NP14914, NP14915.
  57. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 17, 65.
  58. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 17, 65.
  59. Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings (Final Report, September 2023) vol 3 vol 5
  60. Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (Final Report, 2017) vol 1, 230–1; Alison Atkinson-Phillips, ‘Commemorating Childhood Loss and Trauma: Survivor Memorials in Australia’ (2020) 32(2) Historic Environment 54, 60.
  61. Alison Atkinson-Phillips, ‘Commemorating Childhood Loss and Trauma: Survivor Memorials in Australia’ (2020) 32(2) Historic Environment 54, 57.
  62. ‘Honoring Survivors of Sexual Violence’, Survivors Memorial (Web Page) <https://www.survivorsmemorial.org>(opens in a new window).
  63. Alexa Sardina and Nicole Fox, ‘America’s First Memorial Honoring Survivors of Sexual Violence’ (2022) 37(17–18) Journal of Interpersonal Violence NP14914, NP14920.
  64. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 8.
  65. Statement of Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 16–17 [67].
  66. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-50 [1]–[13].
  67. ‘Our Legacy’, Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (Web Page) <https://www.iicsa.org.uk/our-legacy.html>(opens in a new window).
  68. Statement of Maureen Hatcher, 24 November 2023, 3 [13].
  69. Statement of Maureen Hatcher, 24 November 2023, 4 [18]; Transcript of Maureen Hatcher, 24 November 2023, P-298 [29]–[30].
  70. Transcript of Adrian Farrer, 24 November 2023, P-304 [40]–[47].
  71. Transcript of Adrian Farrer, 24 November 2023, P-305 [22]–[25].
  72. Transcript of Adrian Farrer, 24 November 2023, P-309 [1]–[6].
  73. Transcript of Adrian Farrer, 24 November 2023, P-310 [17]–[18].
  74. Submission 52, 2.
  75. Submission 52, 2.
  76. Submission 52, 3.
  77. Transcript of Bruce Esplin, 24 November 2023, P-316 [5]–[8].
  78. Transcript of Bruce Esplin, 24 November 2023, P-316 [24]–[26], [40]–[46].
  79. Transcript of Bruce Esplin, 24 November 2023, P-317 [31]–[37].
  80. Transcript of Bruce Esplin, 24 November 2023, P-317 [4]–[10].
  81. Alison Atkinson-Phillips, ‘Commemorating Childhood Loss and Trauma: Survivor Memorials in Australia’ (2020) 32(2) Historic Environment 54, 65.
  82. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 12 [54].
  83. Healing Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023.
  84. Private session 31.
  85. Private session 26.
  86. Private session 23.
  87. Private session 40.
  88. Private session 34.
  89. Private session 20.
  90. Private session 20.
  91. Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023.
  92. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-27 [11]–[17].
  93. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-25 [24]–[30].
  94. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-26 [47] – P-27 [2].
  95. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-27 [7]–[9].
  96. Private session 18.
  97. Private session 18.
  98. Private session 18.
  99. Private session 10.
  100. Private session 10.
  101. Private session 10.
  102. Private session 38.
  103. Email from private session participant 7 to the Board of Inquiry.
  104. Email from private session participant 7 to the Board of Inquiry.
  105. Email from private session participant 7 to the Board of Inquiry.
  106. Private session 29.
  107. Government Roundtable, Summary of Themes, 19 December 2023, 4.
  108. Government Roundtable, Summary of Themes, 19 December 2023, 4.
  109. ‘What is Truth-telling?’, ANTAR (Web Page) <https://antar.org.au/issues/truth-telling/what-is-truth-telling>(opens in a new window).
  110. ‘What is Truth-telling?’, ANTAR (Web Page) <https://antar.org.au/issues/truth-telling/what-is-truth-telling>(opens in a new window).
  111. See e.g.: ‘About’, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (Web Page) <<<https://nctr.ca/about>(opens in a new window); ‘About Us’, Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery (Web Page) <https://icrir.independent-inquiry.uk/about-us>(opens in a new window).
  112. ‘About’, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (Web Page) <https://nctr.ca/about>(opens in a new window).
  113. ‘About’, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (Web Page) <https://nctr.ca/about>(opens in a new window).
  114. Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation, Truth Telling Symposium Report: 5–6 October 2018 (Report, 2018) 5.
  115. Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation, Truth Telling Symposium Report: 5–6 October 2018 (Report, 2018) 23.
  116. Vanessa Barolsky and Karen Berger, Recognising the Power of Community Truth-telling (Alfred Deakin Institute Policy Briefing Papers, 2023) vol 3(1) 6.
  117. Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation, Truth Telling Symposium Report: 5–6 October 2018 (Report, 2018) 6.
  118. Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation, Truth Telling Symposium Report: 5–6 October 2018 (Report, 2018) 16.
  119. Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation, Truth Telling Symposium Report: 5–6 October 2018 (Report, 2018) 17.
  120. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, P-290 [30]–[33].
  121. Statement of Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 17 [69].
  122. ‘Vic Premier Andrews Holds Joint News Conference’, (Nine News, 28 June 2023).
  123. ‘Vic Premier Andrews Holds Joint News Conference’, (Nine News, 28 June 2023).
  124. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-28 [10].
  125. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-28 [10]–[14].
  126. Private session 18.
  127. Private session 18.
  128. Private session 14.
  129. Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023.
  130. Private session 36.
  131. Submission 36, 5–6.
  132. Private session 4.
  133. Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023.
  134. Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023.
  135. Private session 30.
  136. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, P-290 [25]–[28].
  137. Private session 20.
  138. Private session 18.
  139. Private session 18.
  140. Private session 21.
  141. Private session 21.
  142. Private session 15.
  143. Submission 11, 1.
  144. Statement of ‘Bernard’, 19 October 2023, 4 [33].
  145. Private session 24.
  146. Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023.
  147. Private session 9.
  148. Private session 7.
  149. Submission 49, 2.
  150. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2021, P-31 [46] – P-32 [6].
  151. Chapter 11, The alleged perpetrators, ‘Alleged perpetrator narrative: Darrell Ray’.
  152. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 72.
  153. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 73.
  154. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 73.
  155. Judith L Herman, Truth and Repair (Basic Books UK, 2023) 109.
  156. Judith L Herman, Truth and Repair (Basic Books UK, 2023) 93.
  157. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-73 [33]–[39].
  158. Healing Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023.
  159. Private session 16.
  160. Private session 14.
  161. Private session 14.
  162. Private session 9.
  163. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-25 [40]–[45].
  164. Private session 20.
  165. Private session 29.
  166. Private session 23.
  167. Submission 29, Bravehearts, 5.
  168. Submission 29, Bravehearts, 5.
  169. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 66.
  170. Healing Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023.
  171. Healing Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023.
  172. ‘Open Circle: What is Restorative Justice?’, RMIT University Centre for Innovative Justice (Web Page)
    <https://cij.org.au/opencircle/what-is-restorative-justice>(opens in a new window).
  173. Marie Keenan and Estelle Zinsstag, Sexual Violence and Restorative Justice (Oxford University Press, 2023), 11-12.
  174. Steve Kirkwood, ‘A Practice Framework for Restorative Justice’, (2022) 63 Aggression and Violent Behavior 101688, 3.
  175. Steve Kirkwood, ‘A Practice Framework for Restorative Justice’, (2022) 63 Aggression and Violent Behavior 101688, 3.
  176. ‘Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/redress-police-employees>(opens in a new window).
  177. ‘Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/redress-police-employees>(opens in a new window).
  178. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Processes to Support Victims of Abuse in Defence (Report, October 2014) 40.
  179. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Processes to Support Victims of Abuse in Defence (Report, October 2014) 40-1.
  180. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Processes to Support Victims of Abuse in Defence (Report, October 2014) 40-1.
  181. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-262 [11]–[14].
  182. ‘National Redress Scheme — Direct Personal Response — Consultation Paper’, National Redress Scheme (Consultation Paper, October 2021) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021-10/final-published-dpr-consultation-paper.pdf>(opens in a new window)
  183. ‘Direct Personal Response’, National Redress Scheme (Web Page) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/applying/what-can-you-apply/direct-personal-response>(opens in a new window).
  184. ‘Direct Personal Response’, National Redress Scheme (Web Page) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/applying/what-can-you-apply/direct-personal-response>(opens in a new window).
  185. National Redress Scheme, Fact Sheet: Direct Personal Response (Fact Sheet) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2023-06/Direct%20personal%20response%20-%20Fact%20Sheet%2006062023.PDF>(opens in a new window).
  186. Transcript of Government Panel (Jane Sweeney), 23 November 2023, P-261 [45]–[47], P-262 [1]–[2]; Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-262 [11]–[19].
  187. National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (Cth) ss 13(1)(d), 15(6); National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Rules 2018 (Cth) r 11(1).
  188. Submission 41, Angela Sdrinis Legal, 15.
  189. Submission 41, Angela Sdrinis Legal, 15–16.
  190. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023 P-262 [21]–[31].
  191. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-262 [37]–[41].
  192. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-273 [17]–[20].
  193. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-273 [2]–[28].
  194. Hazel Blunden et al, ‘Victims/Survivors’ Perceptions of Helpful Institutional Responses to Incidents of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse’ (2021) 30(1) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 56, 64.
  195. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-273 [31]–[32].
  196. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-273 [33]–[34].
  197. ‘About Find & Connect’, Find & Connect (Web Page) <https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/about>(opens in a new window).
  198. ‘About Find & Connect’, Find & Connect (Web Page) <https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/about>(opens in a new window).
  199. ‘Finding Records’, Department of Health and Human Services (Web Page) <https://www.findingrecords.dhhs.vic.gov.au>(opens in a new window).
  200. ‘Finding Records’, Department of Health and Human Services (Web Page) <https://www.findingrecords.dhhs.vic.gov.au>(opens in a new window).
  201. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023 P-273 [39]–[43].
  202. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023 P-273 [45]–[47].
  203. Government Roundtable, Summary of Themes, 19 December 2023, 1–2.
  204. Private session 14.
  205. Private session 14.
  206. Private session 6.
  207. Private session 12.
  208. Private session 13.
  209. Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (Vic), Care Leaver Access to Records Policy (Policy, February 2021) 2.
  210. Statement of Patrick O’Leary, 15 November 2023, 8 [53].
  211. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 16 [81].
  212. Beaumaris and Surrounding Communities — CSA Survivors and Families, ‘Services & Supports for Survivors & Communities Impacted by Systemic Child Sexual Abuse’, change.org (Online Petition, 1 February 2022).
  213. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-30 [10].
  214. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-29 [25]–[26].
  215. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2021, P-22 [5]–[16].
  216. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2021, P-23 [17]–[20].
  217. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-29 [25]–[45]; Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2021, P-22 [5]–[12], [30]–[33].
  218. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 7.
  219. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-32 [1]–[4].
  220. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-31 [41]–[45].
  221. Government Roundtable, Summary of Themes, 19 December 2023, 4.
  222. Government Roundtable, Summary of Themes, 19 December 2023, 4.
  223. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-29 [39]–[40].
  224. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2021, P-30 [1]–[37]; Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 4.
  225. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 4.
  226. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 4.
  227. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 248.
  228. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 59, 248.
  229. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-76 [35]–[38].
  230. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-77 [41]–[42].
  231. Submission 29, Bravehearts, 4.
  232. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023, P-22 [5]–[16], [30]–[36].
  233. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-31 [26]–[28].
  234. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, P-288 [15]–[16].
  235. Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (Final Report, February 2021) vol 4, 451.
  236. Victorian Skills Authority, Health and Community Services Industry Insight (Final Report, October 2022) 5.
  237. Response to invitation for additional information, Government Roundtable, 14 December 2023, received 29 December 2023.
  238. Response to invitation for additional information, Government Roundtable, 14 December 2023, received 29 December 2023.
  239. Response to invitation for additional information, Government Roundtable, 14 December 2023, received 29 December 2023.
  240. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 14 [48(b)].
  241. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030 (2021) 50; <https://www.childsafety.gov.au/system/files/2022-09/national-strategy-2021-30-english.pdf>(opens in a new window); Amanda Paton et al, Minimum Practice Standards: Specialist and Community Support Services Responding to Child Sexual Abuse (National Office for Child Safety, December 2022) <https://www.childsafety.gov.au/system/files/2023-08/minimum-practice-standards-specialist-community-support%20Services-responding-child-sexual-abuse.PDF>(opens in a new window).
  242. ‘Delivering Trauma-informed Support for Child Sexual Abuse Victims in Australia: Mapping the Knowledge Gaps and Training Needs of the Specialist Sectors’, National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse (Web Page) <https://nationalcentre.org.au/research/delivering-trauma-informed-support-for-child-sexual-abuse-victims-in-victoria-mapping-the-knowledge-gaps-and-training-needs-of-the-specialist-sectors>(opens in a new window).
  243. ‘Recommendation 23: Establishing a New Statewide Trauma Service’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/mental-health-reform/recommendation-23>(opens in a new window).
  244. ‘Local Adult and Older Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Services’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/mental-health-reform/local-adult-and-older-adult-mental-health-and-wellbeing-services>(opens in a new window).
  245. ‘Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/victims-crime-financial-assistance-scheme>(opens in a new window). See also Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Act 2022 (Vic) ss 5(a)–(d), 10(2)(a), 14(2)(a), 16(2)(a).
  246. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 14 [48(d)].
  247. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 14 [48(d)].
  248. ‘Justice Responses to Sexual Violence’, Australian Law Reform Commission (Web Page) <https://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiry/justice-responses-to-sexual-violence>(opens in a new window).
  249. ‘Justice Responses to Sexual Violence’, Australian Law Reform Commission (Web Page) <https://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiry/justice-responses-to-sexual-violence>(opens in a new window).
  250. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023, P-8 [22]–[35].
  251. Healing Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023, P-8 [36]–[38].
  252. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030 (2021) 41.
  253. National Office for Child Safety, ‘Public Consultation to Inform a National Point of Referral to Assist Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse to Access Help and Information’ (Discussion Paper, October 2023) 6.
  254. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-23 [9]–[15].
  255. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 7.
  256. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) xxxii.
  257. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2 [8].
  258. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20].
  259. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-248 [34]–[38].
  260. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20]–[21].
  261. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 3 [8].
  262. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-247 [9]–[22].
  263. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 10 November 2023, 7 [28].
  264. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 10 November 2023, 8 [29].
  265. ‘Coordinated support program’, Open Place (Web Page, 2022) <https://www.openplace.org.au/coordinated-support>(opens in a new window).
  266. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 10 November 2023, 8 [31]; ‘About Find & Connect’, Find & Connect (Web Page) <https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/about>(opens in a new window).
  267. Statement of Joe Tucci, 21 November 2023, 11 [51].
  268. Statement of Joe Tucci, 21 November 2023, 11 [54].
  269. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 9, 15.
  270. Beaumaris and Surrounding Communities — CSA Survivors and Families, ‘Services & Supports for Survivors & Communities Impacted by Systemic Child Sexual Abuse’, change.org (Online Petition, 1 February 2022).
  271. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 262.
  272. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 256–8.
  273. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 259.
  274. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 3.
  275. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 262; Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December) vol 9, 15.
  276. Victorian Government, Integrated Treatment, Care and Support for People with Co-occurring Mental Illness and Substance Use or Addiction: Guidance for Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing and Alcohol and Other Drug Services (July 2022) 12.
  277. Victorian Government, Integrated Treatment, Care and Support for People with Co-occurring Mental Illness and Substance Use or Addiction: Guidance for Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing and Alcohol and Other Drug Services (July 2022) 12.
  278. Transcript of Government Panel (Kelly Stanton), 23 November 2023, P-271 [39]–[42].
  279. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 6.
  280. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, [26]
  281. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 92–6.
  282. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 96–8.
  283. Victorian Law Reform Commission, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences (Report, September 2021) 81, 98.
  284. Statement of Joe Tucci, 21 November 2023, 13 [62].
  285. ‘Peer Support Phone Line’, Survivors & Mates Support Network (Web Page) <https://www.samsn.org.au/recovery-and-healing/peer-support-line>(opens in a new window).
  286. Lived Experiences Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-14 [27]–[34].
  287. Submission 22, 2.
  288. Chapter 17, Support needs and challenges, ‘Prevalence of child sexual abuse in institutional settings’.
  289. Government Roundtable, Summary of Themes, 19 December 2023, 4.
  290. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-23 [5]–[15].
  291. Services Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 29 November 2023, P-23 [20]–[25].
  292. Order in Council (Vic), ‘Appointment of a Board of Inquiry into Historical Child Sexual Abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and Certain Other Government Schools’, Victorian Government Gazette, No S 339, 28 June 2023, cl 2(b).
  293. The Premier may determine to transfer the records to another public office; Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic) s 124.
  294. Public Records Act 1973 (Vic) ss 9–10.
  295. ‘Closure of Public Records under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973’, Public Record Office Victoria (Fact Sheet, 2013) <https://prov.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2016-05/1110fs1-20130731.pdf>(opens in a new window).
  296. As recently considered by the Supreme Court of Victoria in Re Mokbel (No 2) [2024] VSC 39.
  297. Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic) s 80(1)
  298. Yoorrook Justice Commission, Report into Victoria’s Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems (Report, 31 August 2023) 399 <https://yoorrookforjustice.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Yoorrook-for-justice-report.pdf>(opens in a new window).
  299. Yoorrook Justice Commission, Report into Victoria’s Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems (Report, 31 August 2023) 394 <https://yoorrookforjustice.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Yoorrook-for-justice-report.pdf>(opens in a new window).
  300. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) s 7(2E)(a)(vi).

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