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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5248

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (19:03): I would like to ask the Attorney-General a question about a budget item that, quite frankly, a lot of us wish we did not have to have, which is the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse establishment. We know that this royal commission was established at the beginning of this year to inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidences of child sexual abuse in a variety of institutions. It is unfortunately a very long list of types of institutions that the commissioner said they would be investigating including residential care facilities such as orphanages, all religious organisations and their various entities, even a child care centre, state government child protection agencies, detention centres, Defence Forces, juvenile justice centres. It is a very broad remit.

I think it is doubtful that anyone in the parliament, most unfortunately, is going to end up being in a geographic area that is immune from where some of these incidences have happened. I have turned on the news and had reports of people from institutions in my local area—including ones that I frequent now and did as a child—where people who are in positions of trust and authority have been detained and possibly charged with the most heinous crimes imaginable.

It is quite clear that we do not know how long this inquiry will need to go for, and Justice McClellan has said that there will be about 5,000 people appearing before the commission. I think it is important to reflect on the fact that one of things that people do need is for their story to be told and for them to be heard. That is one of the clear things that have come out of the inquiry announcement so far. Whilst the initial report is due mid next year and the final report by the end of 2015, given there is such a large number of people and such a wide ambit of inquiry, I know that questions have been raised about whether it is possible to meet that. We as the government and, I am sure, all members of this place want to do everything possible to ensure people's voices are heard.

I also happened to have a look at the royal commission website. They have taken and listened to a lot of feedback on their website, and in response I saw that they were trying to improve access for people through a new website. As the website itself says:

Importantly, our new website will have better provisions for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disabilities and people from Non-English speaking backgrounds.

They expect their website to be ready by mid-July this year. So they are even looking at very practical things, like updating their website to maximise accessibility, which is an issue in itself.

I also note that it is quite apparent, given the number of people expected to come forward—and these are conservative estimates—that we do not how long the commission will actually go for. I can understand how that poses its own challenges in terms of funding, but this process has been established and it needs to be properly resourced so that the terms of reference of the inquiry are not compromised.

My question to the Attorney-General is: could you please update us on funding for the royal commission, including the total funding, and how this is going to help victims get a fair go and fair hearing. Importantly, can you please provide the chamber with information on what additional funding has been provided for counselling and community based services as part of this process.