A note on language

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A note on language

The Board of Inquiry recognises that language is powerful, and that words have various meanings to different people.

There is no one set of definitions to describe people’s experiences of child sexual abuse. Every individual may use different words to describe what happened to them, and how it has affected and continues to affect their life.

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that the sensitive and appropriate use of language when describing child sexual abuse is important in helping people to heal. Language and words can be used to recognise, validate and empower people. If used carelessly, they can stigmatise, diminish, blame, or cause or contribute to trauma.

The Glossary, found in Appendix C(opens in a new window), comprises a list of terms as the Board of Inquiry understands them and has intended to use them. The list reflects the definitions in the Terms of Reference, as well as the optimal use of language as informed by research and evidence.

The Board of Inquiry recognises that not everyone will agree with the terminology used within this report. It is also important to note that the Board of Inquiry’s choice of language needs to be informed by its procedural fairness obligations. However, we hope that those with whom we interact, and our broader audience, will read or hear these words in the spirit in which they are intended.

In line with a trauma-informed approach, the Board of Inquiry acknowledges that individuals have the right to define their identity. For some individuals, the terms ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ are perceived as existing on a continuum of recovery, while others may not identify with either of these terms.

However, it is the Board of Inquiry’s sincere aim to ensure that our words, engagement and actions assist people on their pathway to healing, and cause no harm.

The Board of Inquiry also recognises the diversity of First Nations people throughout Victoria and the whole of Australia.

In line with the Australian Government Style Manual, the Board of Inquiry recognises that ‘Aboriginal’ is a broad term that encompasses nations and custodians of mainland Australia and most of the islands, including Tasmania, K’gari, Palm Island, Mornington Island, Groote Eylandt, Bathurst Island and Melville Island.

The Board of Inquiry has used the term ‘Aboriginal people’ to refer to people from Victoria’s Aboriginal communities.

At times, other terminology such as ‘First Nations people’ has been used in this report where relevant to the context; for example, when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or when describing a specific service or quoting a source where this term is used.