Child Abuse Royal Commission to Halt Private Sessions for Survivors

By Jane Lee
Sydney Morning Herald
April 28, 2016

It has spoken to 5111 survivors in private sessions, with 1544 waiting for future sessions. Over the past year, it has held about 37 private sessions a week.

But now, the child abuse royal commission is winding down its private sessions with survivors.

The commission, which is due to deliver its final report in December 2017, will stop accepting survivors' applications to tell their stories to commissioners in private hearings after September 30.

The royal commission is due to deliver its final report in December 2017. Photo: Jeremy Piper

The chairman of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan, will make the announcement at a hearing in Sydney on Friday.

"There can be no exceptions for any application received after that date," his prepared statement says. "I know this will mean that some people will be disappointed. For that the commissioners are sorry."

Survivors will still be able to send written accounts to commissioners and receive help from commission officers to do this.

Justice Peter McClellan has emphasised that hearing survivors' stories is important for their healing. Photo: Nick Moir

"The information which the commission has obtained from survivors has proved to be critical in informing our investigations and will provide a secure foundation for many of our final recommendations," the statement says.

Justice McClellan who has emphasised that hearing survivors' stories is important for their healing is also expected to say that while demand for private sessions is not expected to diminish, commissioners will have limited time to devote to private sessions amid final hearings and preparations for their final report.

He will say that it is not appropriate to extend the commission beyond its deadline and, unless it closes applications early, the commissioners will not have time to meet all of the survivors scheduled for private sessions: "In our view it would be intolerable for a survivor to be accepted for a private session only to find we could not meet with them."

The judge will say that commissioners had discussed the problem with the federal government, including the possibility of hiring more people without additional funding, or starting another process following the commission to hear survivors' stories.

The commissioners believe future redress schemes should ensure survivors are able to tell their stories, either through a "truth-telling process or a form of restorative justice".

"One of [the] benefits is the acknowledgement to the survivor of both the failure of the individual institution and of our whole society to adequately protect many children."








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