NSW measures to ensure greater reporting of child sexual abuse welcome, Catholic Church must follow suit

3 April 2018
Lawyers for abuse survivors have today welcomed an announcement from the NSW Government to implement serious penalties for failure to report child sexual abuse, and have urged all states to work together to ensure similar measures are extended to Catholic Church confessionals as a matter of urgency.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Special Counsel Danielle De Paoli said the NSW Government’s decision to introduce a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for failure to report abuse was a welcome measure that would send a strong message to institutions that they must act quickly in responding to and addressing complaints of abuse.

"We know from the hundreds of case studies reported to the Royal Commission that failure to report abuse and to act on complaints was a key issue in allowing systemic abuse to occur, sometimes for decades, in many Australian institutions,” Ms De Paoli said.

“Having tough penalties for failure to report abuse is an important measure to counter this, including sending a strong message that complaints of abuse must be treated seriously and acted on swiftly, with serious consequences for failure to do so.

“For these measures to be truly effective though it is critical that admissions of abuse made through Catholic Church confessionals are also reported – this was a recommendation of the Royal Commission and it is completely untenable and flies in the face of commitments to address wrongs of the past for the Church to continue to resist such an important step.

“Other professions, including doctors and health professionals, have an obligation to report instances of abuse and there is no excuse for the Catholic Church clergy to not be held to the same standard in ensuring that the safety of children is made a priority.

"We urge all states to act on pursuing greater accountability from the Catholic Church in the reporting of abuse as a matter of urgency, in the same way that NSW is now acting to hold other institutions to account,” she said.

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