When a child is sexually abused, the impacts for the victim, their family and the wider community can be devastating and long-lasting.
Over five years, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse investigated how institutions like schools, churches, sport clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. More than 8000 survivors of sexual abuse in childhood came forward to share their personal experiences of abuse in a private session with a Commissioner. The Commission heard evidence of abuse in over 4000 institutions across Australia.
The NSW Government has endorsed the overwhelming majority of the 409 recommendations made by the Royal Commission in its Final Report. Implementation of key reforms is well underway in NSW, and includes:
NSW Health response to the Royal Commission
NSW Health is committed to improving prevention and responses to child sexual abuse. NSW Health has already made changes in response to the Royal Commission including:
Ongoing key areas of reform for NSW Health are described below. They include making NSW Health child safe, improving services for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and improving responses for children with problematic or harmful sexual behaviours.
Making NSW Health child safe
"NSW Health has made a commitment in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to ensure our public health institutions are child safe and that strong direction and clear guidance is given to our workforce to meet our responsibilities to child protection and well-being”
- NSW Health Secretary, Ms Elizabeth Koff
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Australia is a party to, makes clear that acting in the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration for all institutions that deliver services to children. The NSW Government affirmed its commitment to upholding the rights of children in its response to the Royal Commission.
In order to achieve this, the NSW Government has accepted the Royal Commission’s Child Safe Standards. All jurisdictions will be asked to endorse the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations which incorporates the Royal Commission’s Child Safe Standards. The NSW Government supports these aspirational principles as the architecture for the proposed National Framework for Child Safety.
Child Safe Standards - text alternative
The Child Safe Standards are consistent with the approach to child safe organisations operating in NSW.
NSW Health is undertaking further work and consultation towards the implementation and monitoring of Child Safe Standards across all public health organisations. This builds on the legislative changes made to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to support improved sharing of information between specified private health professionals. This work will also build on the range of existing NSW Health policies and practices aimed at keeping children safe. These include policies and practices relating to recruitment and employment screening, the Code of Conduct, education, training and supervision of staff (including volunteers), complaint handling, investigation procedures and the provision of professional guidance and practice support through the implementation of mandatory child protection training for NSW Health workers.
Regulating child safe organisations
NSW Health has supported proposals in the Office of the Children's Guardian's (OCG) Regulating child safe organisations in NSW discussion paper.
There is a strong appetite from within our public health system for creating child safe environments. Health's response to the discussion paper was informed by significant input from Local Health Districts, Specialty Health Networks and Pillar Organisations. The response promotes building on existing good practice and includes suggestions for how standards can be implemented and monitored in diverse service settings across the health system.
NSW Health will continue working closely with the OCG on the regulation of child safe standards.
Improving advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services
The NSW Government recognises that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse are diverse and that responses should consider their specific and varied needs. Through the NSW response to the Royal Commission, NSW Health is considering options for more unified and comprehensive whole-of-government approaches that address the particular support and treatment needs of all survivor groups.
NSW Health provides a range of support and treatment services for victims and survivors of sexual abuse. This includes the network of Sexual Assault Services across NSW which provide free, integrated and trauma-specialist support for children and adults who are victims and survivors of sexual assault. Work is underway to improve support and treatment responses, including identifying opportunities for improved intervention in the delivery and systems-design of NSW Health violence, abuse and neglect services. For information regarding sexual assault visit our Sexual assault resources for victims and families page.
Improving prevention and treatment for children with harmful sexual behaviours
The NSW Government is committed to preventing and responding to children with problematic or harmful sexual behaviour. NSW New Street Services deliver high quality, evidence-based therapeutic services for children and young people aged 10 to 17 years who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviours towards others. New Street Services prioritise Aboriginal children, young people and communities. Identified Aboriginal Counsellor positions are in place in all services. This leading service model provides specialised, early intervention, community-based support, and is based on two critical elements:
- working with the whole family unit through an interagency approach
- the principle of safety, for the child victim and the young person engaged in the harmful behaviour who may themselves be victims of crime and/or of abuse and neglect.
Through the NSW response to the Royal Commission, NSW Health will expand access to therapeutic services for children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours by opening an additional New Street service. The NSW Government has also committed to further work to improve responses to the complex issue of children with harmful sexual behaviours.
For further details see the full NSW Government response to the Royal Commission.