Statement following coverage of the conviction of Cardinal George Pell

Following a week of media and community focus on child sexual abuse, the Commission for Children and Young People acknowledges that this is an especially difficult time for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. As services respond to their ongoing needs, we encourage the community to surround them with care and support.

It is also vital at this time to reaffirm our collective responsibility to ensure allegations of child abuse are dealt with effectively and appropriately.

In Victoria, significant work has been undertaken to ensure this occurs and to require organisations to take steps to prevent abuse. The Child Safe Standards legally require organisations dealing with children to take action to ensure their safety. The Reportable Conduct Scheme requires organisations dealing with children to notify the Commission of alleged harm perpetrated by workers or volunteers to ensure an effective and rigorous response to allegations.

These measures align with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and Victoria leads Australia in being the only state or territory to have legislated both schemes.

At the Commission we know that many, many organisations throughout Victoria have acted on the Child Safe Standards and have in place strong policies, systems and practices to prevent abuse, empower children and build child safe culture.

However, no-one should be under the misapprehension that child sexual abuse and other institutional harms to children are ‘historic’. From the accounts and allegations we receive through our daily work, the Commission knows that harmful conduct against children persists and that, despite some progress, many organisations still have significant work to do before responses are adequate to fully protect children.

Our work administering the Reportable Conduct Scheme highlights the paramount importance of listening to children, and of rejecting persistent myths that children routinely fabricate allegations, or that their evidence is inherently unreliable and deserves less weight than evidence given by adults.

For the sake of children today and in the future, we cannot be complacent. Within organisations and across the entire community we have much work to do to ensure that children are safe, empowered and able to thrive wherever they live, learn or play.

In case of immediate danger to children, call 000. Contacts for child protection services, and other helpful resources and organisations are listed here.

More information about the Child Safe Standards and the Reportable Conduct Scheme is available on this website.

The Commission can also be contacted on 1300 78 29 78, or via email on contact@ccyp.vic.gov.au