Today’s State Government response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse must be the start of an increased commitment to safeguarding children across the whole WA community, the Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit said today.
“State and federal governments, organisations and the community must all work together to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission's report and ensure abuse of children is prevented,” Mr Pettit said.
The Commissioner said that his office had been monitoring and contributing to the work of the Royal Commission over its operation, and had produced resources to assist agencies and community organisations working with children to implement child safe policies and practices.
“We have also been working across government to improve the prevention and response to children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours,” Mr Pettit said.
“There is still much work to be done – oversight mapping in WA has shown that we have gaps in our responses to children who need support.
“Some of the Royal Commission’s recommendations can be implemented immediately – organisations should already have child safe practices and policies in place and must urgently take steps to do so if they are yet to act.”
The Commissioner said that he supported the Royal Commission recommendation that the Australian Government and state and territory governments monitor and report on their implementation of the recommendations, including through an annual report tabled before their respective parliaments.
“Responding to the Royal Commission is not just the responsibility of government – all organisations working with children as well as the wider community need to play a part to ensure children’s safety.
“Organisations working with children and young people must have strong child safe policies and practices and need to create an environment where children feel comfortable to raise any concerns.
“Some 285 children and young people under the age of 25 provided evidence to this Royal Commission – highlighting that child sexual abuse continues to occur.
“It is important to also remember that while the Royal Commission’s focus was on the sexual abuse of children within institutions only, the number of children who are sexually abused in family or other circumstances far exceeds those who are abused in institutions.
“Children have the right to be safe and respected wherever they are and all adults interacting with children, whether they be parents, family members, professionals or volunteers, all have a responsibility to be proactive in considering the needs of children, to ask them if they are ok and to empower them to speak up about any concerns they may have.
“As adults, we then have a responsibility to be informed, take the initiative and to act when concerned about a child or young person at home, in an organisation or in the community.”
The Commissioner has a range of resources for organisations, parents and children on child safe practices available.