Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is – of course – supportive of this Bill.
The legislation takes, as its central inspiration, a clear recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. That recommendation (recommendation 13.3) was aimed at reducing the sexual abuse of children in boarding schools. Accordingly, both that recommendation and the Bill most certainly have our endorsement.
As many other MLAs and MLCs have already pointed out in their contributions on the Bill, it is very directly focused (with good reason) on the need to improve the protection of children in boarding houses by ensuring that those facilities are more effectively registered and regulated.
As was observed in the final report of the Royal Commission, a particularly high cumulative risk of child sexual abuse is usually (and sadly) inherent to a boarding school environment.
The Commissioners found that this is because:
- it generally presents significant opportunities for perpetrators to be alone with children;
- the children are at the full beck-and-call of the demands, instructions and authority of the adults there;
- there is often little independent oversight of the day-to-day events at the boarding house; and
- there are usually few obvious alternative adults to whom the resident children can immediately disclose abuse, or from whom they can seek protection.
No matter whether it be a public or private school, it is critically important that any school in Victoria fastidiously complies with basic child safe standards and does everything within its power to prevent the sexual abuse of its students.
In my view, the changes being enshrined through this Bill provide very important, new, protections in that context.
I would also take this opportunity to point out that Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has maintained a very close and active interest in the development and rollout of the National Redress Scheme. This has been particularly through Derryn’s involvement during his term in the Senate as the Chair of the Joint Select Committee overseeing the implementation of the redress elements of the Royal Commission.
That work and consultation (as well as my own in meeting with survivors and with the offices of the Victorian Attorney-General and the Federal Families and Social Services Minister on an ongoing basis about the progression and implementation of the Scheme) has made me even more acutely aware of the life-long repercussions of child sexual abuse for many individuals.
It has also made me feel even more strongly about the levels of accountability and responsibility that should be borne by every organisation in making sure that such heinous offending never occurs under their watch.
Naturally, schools (and, even more specifically, boarding schools) are an integral part of that.
I therefore thank the Education Minister and the Government for introducing the Bill, and I confirm that it enjoys my support.