The Tasmanian Government takes the safety of children extremely seriously and acknowledges the immense courage it takes for survivors to come forward about their experiences. Any sexual offence against children is abhorrent.
On Monday, 23 November 2020 the Premier announced that the Tasmanian Government would be establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the responses of Tasmanian Government Agencies in relation to the management of historical allegations of child sexual abuse.
The important work already underway by Professors Stephen Smallbone and Tim McCormack in relation to the Department of Education, and Ms Maree Norton in relation to the Department of Health and the Tasmanian Health Service and other entities, and the investigation into allegations of abuse at Ashley Youth Detention Centre will all continue and be rolled into the Commission of Inquiry, once established.
We have commenced the work required to establish a Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. It will commence in early 2021 and the Department of Justice is leading the work to develop the Terms of Reference.
Anyone who would like to make a submission to the existing Inquiries and Investigations, as well as provide early information for the Commission to consider, can do so by accessing the portal which is now live, via the Department of Justice website: https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/inquiry
Careful and detailed consideration of the Terms of Reference is required to ensure that the Commission of Inquiry is appropriately empowered to consider the management of child sexual abuse allegations.
Work has also commenced to consider the functional requirements of the Commission of Inquiry, including leadership, staffing, premises and any additional services, including support services, required to support the operations of the Commission.
I have also requested advice from the Department of Justice about whether any legislative amendments are required to the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1995 to ensure it is appropriately empowered.
A phone number has also been established to enable people to make contact: 1800 950 110.
It is important to mention that these issues, and media coverage of these issues, can be extremely upsetting for people.
I want to stress that if any aspect of these matters raise concerns for anyone, please reach out for help.
The Commission portal has a list of supports available but please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 if anyone needs to talk to someone.
The Tasmanian Government recognises the extraordinary courage it takes for someone to come forward and report sexual abuse, particularly if that abuse happened when they were a child.
If someone would like to seek information regarding the National Redress Scheme, they can contact the Information Line on 1800 146 713.
This is important and necessary work, and I am proud of the Tasmanian Government’s extensive law reforms in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the work that is continuing in this high priority area.