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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5249

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsAttorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management, Minister for the Public Service and Integrity and Special Minister of State) (19:07): I thank the member for Greenway for her question. I know of her longstanding interest in this area. The member for Greenway is quite right that no geographic area is immune—anywhere in Australia.

I wish we could say that that was the case—that we will meet that deadline—but this has been described as likely to be one of the longest and certainly largest royal commissions or inquiries ever conducted in Australia. But that is because the problem is on such a scale that, as the member for Greenway has rightly said, it has left no part of Australia untouched. Our government is going to do everything that it can to make sure that what has happened to children in the past is never allowed to happen again. That is why the Prime Minister announced late last year this Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. As a government we are committed to making sure that this royal commission has the resources to do its job properly.

The member for Greenway alluded in her question to the fact that we have asked the royal commission to produce its interim report by 30 June next year and to produce its final report, if it can, by the end of 2015. We have invited the royal commission to indicate in that interim report not only any recommendations that it feels able to make on an interim basis but also whether the three years that have been allowed for this inquiry are in fact going to be enough. We asked for an interim report because our view is that the Australian people are entitled to get a progress report, as it were, on the activities of this royal commission.

We already know the scale of it. Again, the member for Greenway mentioned something that the chief royal commissioner has indicated publicly—that some 5,000 preliminary inquiries have been received from people who have indicated that they wish to give evidence before the royal commission or to participate in its processes in some other way.

I can assure colleagues that there is funding in this budget for the operation of the royal commission, in the amount of $434.1 million. That will both fund the royal commission itself and support the survivors of sexual abuse. It is the case also that the Department of Families, Housing, Committee Services and Indigenous Affairs received funding of $37.9 million for the years 2013-14 to 2015-16, in addition to the $7 million appropriated in 2012-13 additional estimates for community-based support services. The total component of that department's royal commission funding is $45 million.

The government has already provided additional support for specialist providers of support services for victims of child abuse following the announcement of the commission. I can indicate that some half a million dollars has been provided to Bravehearts, to Care Leavers Australia Network and to Adults Surviving Child Abuse—all existing organisations—to assist them to meet the increased demand of their services following the announcement of the royal commission. On 13 April an open competitive grants process was announced to ensure survivors and their families who are engaging with the royal commission have access to appropriate community-based support services. Organisations will be funded to deliver specialist services such as counselling, support and case management to individuals and affected family members before, during and after their engagement with the royal commission. That grants process is expected to be completed within weeks.

Funding is based on assumptions that may change during the course of this royal commission, or be refined once the commission commences its full formal hearings. The commission held an initial directions hearing to announce some of its processes back on 3 April, but the full hearings are yet to commence. The work of this commission is clearly a very significant undertaking and its potential workload and required operational funding will be more readily assessed over time. Because those funding requirements may change over the life of the royal commission, since its very inception we have made clear to the royal commission and we make it clear to the Australian community that this government is determined to ensure that the royal commission is adequately resourced.