Victorian government annual report 2019: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection Child sexual abuse Indigenous child protection Institutional responses to child sexual abuse Victoria

This report describes progress made from December 2018 to December 2019.

In this period, the Victorian Government has implemented important reforms to ensure the safety and protection of Victorian children. For example, the government has expanded the groups that are required to report physical and sexual abuse of children to authorities, to include out‑of‑home care workers, youth justice workers, school counsellors, early childhood workers and registered psychologists.

Further, the Victorian Government introduced landmark reforms to strengthen the protection of children by enacting the Children Legislation Amendment Act 2019, which includes people in religious ministry as mandatory reporters to Child Protection. People in religious ministry will be required to report if they reasonably believe that a child has been physically or sexually abused, including where the belief is based on religious confession. The legislation also removes the exemption for religious confessions from the failure to disclose offence in the Crimes Act 1958, so that information learned during religious confession about child sexual abuse must be reported.

The protection of children was also promoted through reforms limiting the right of appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for people whose Working with Children Check application is rejected if they have been charged with, convicted or found guilty of one of the most serious offences, such as rape or murder.

Important reforms have been made to ensure the safety and appropriate treatment of children and young people in the youth justice system. Youth justice workers will receive appropriate training in trauma-informed care, and on the needs and experiences of children with complex needs, such as mental health problems, and the barriers children face in disclosing sexual abuse. In addition, a new Internal Complaints Management Framework for Youth Justice Centres has been developed to receive and resolve complaints made by children and young people in youth justice precincts.

Finally, the Victorian Government has made significant improvements to victim support, including appointing a Victims of Crime Commissioner with new powers to strengthen compliance with the Victims Charter Act 2006 and implementation of a Victim Support Dog Program, after a successful pilot with support dog Suzie. Suzie provides comfort and support to victims and witnesses before court appearances and case conferences. This assists in reducing trauma for victims and witnesses.

This report also describes important cultural safety strategies being implemented for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

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