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The Age of Inquiry: A global mapping of institutional abuse inquiries

Global mapping institutional abuse

Title: The Age of Inquiry: A global mapping of institutional abuse inquiries

Author: Wright, K., Swain, S. and Skold, J.

Publication: Melbourne: La Trobe University

Date: 2017

INQUIRY: Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-government Organisations (Betrayal of Trust)

Alternative Names: Betrayal of Trust
Website: http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/fcdc/inquiry/340
Inquiry Type: Parliamentary Inquiry
Location: Australia; Victoria

Key Dates

1950s – 2010s – Period of investigation
April 2012 – November 2013 Period of operation
17 April 2012 – Announcement date
19 October 2012 – 3 June 2013 Public hearings
13 November 2013 – Final Report


The Inquiry examined processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations. The Terms of Reference included consideration of practices, policies and protocols for handling allegations, measures put in place by organisations in response to concerns and the exposure of abuse; how organisations can prevent criminal abuse; and the existence of systemic practices to preclude or discourage reporting of abuse. The Inquiry was charged with making recommendations for changes needed to help prevent or deal with allegations of abuse.

The Process
The Inquiry received written submissions, held public and private hearings, and conducted inhouse research.

Governing Legislation
Reference under Section 33(1)(b) of the Parliamentary Committees Act 200

Inquiry Locations
Australia; Victoria; Melbourne, with additional hearings in Bendigo, Geelong and Ballarat.

Public Hearings
106 public hearings.

Private Hearings
56 private hearings.

Written Submissions
The inquiry received 450 written submissions (325 from victims and family members), comprising 305 public, 38 name-withheld and 107 confidential. Three submissions were later withdrawn. It also accepted 92 supplementary submissions.

Internal Research
Researchers in the Secretariat conducted a literature review and accessed archival organisational files.

36 survivors (or family members of victims); 25 experts, 13 representatives of survivor support organisations, 28 institutional representatives; 5 government.

Victim/survivors 27 male, 8 female gave evidence.

The Inquiry examined religious organisations (15 submissions, 9 witnesses), schools (3 submissions, 3 witnesses), other institutions (4 submissions, 3 witnesses), sporting clubs (1 submission, 1 witness) and community organisations (5 submissions, 5 witnesses). There is a particular focus on the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church. Institutions investigated were both single sex and mixed.

The Inquiry found that organisations were aware of abuse in the past but their responses to it were motivated by self interest and the protection of the organisation rather than the safety and rights of the children.

15 recommendations were made. Key recommendations include reforms to the criminal law, improved access to civil litigation, establishment of independent redress mechanism, monitoring responses in the future and the creation of child safe environments.

Further Action
The Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations was influential in the decision to establish the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Related Inquiries
Directly influential in establishment of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse


Final Reports

  • Family and Community Development Committee, Betrayal of trust: inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations, Victoria Parliament, Family and Community Development Committee., Victorian Government Printer, Victoria, 2013. Also available at http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/fcdc/article/1788Details


See also

Acknowledgement: this summary was prepared by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

For more information visit: http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/research/ageofinquiry/biogs/E000048b.htm

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