The Commission of Inquiry Tasmania – Learnings From The Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings Report

Learnings from the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings Report

On 15 March 2021, the Governor of Tasmania launched the Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings (Inquiry). On 31 August 2023, the Final Report of the Inquiry was published, setting out important learnings from the Inquiry.

This inquiry was prompted in part by the publicity in 2020 surrounding the abuse perpetrated by paediatric nurse Mr James Griffin towards children. Mr Griffin was employed at Launceston General Hospital and other Tamanian government institutions and later confessed to sexually abusing multiple children within his life. Mr Griffin died prior to being charged and convicted of his crimes.

So while the inquiry was set up to investigate allegations of abuse from a rage of institutional service providers for children, such as schools and youth detention centres, this abuse by a nurse led this inquiry to also examine the safety of children in Tasmanian health services.

The inquiry found that there was little existing research into the risks of abuse of children in health services and hospitals. There is an assumption within the community that hospitals are safe places for children generally. The inquiry heard evidence from multiple victim survivors of abuse that occurred at the Launceston General Hospital and other health settings.

The inquiry noted that children in hospital settings are often unwell, have disabilities or are otherwise more vulnerable to abuse than other children. Health practitioners often have access to children in private places away from other adults due to the nature of health and treatment practices.

The Inquiry heard of the frustration experienced by victim-survivors as well as other health practitioners who tried to report allegations of abuse. The inquiry also heard about the ongoing systemic failures that allowed abuse in hospitals to continue over many years.

In its recommendations, the Inquiry recommended that the Department of Health implement reforms in relation to responding to allegations of sexual abuse in hospitals.

The Inquiry noted that as health services are a federal service, the Australian Health Practitioner Agency (AHPRA) is responsible for taking complaints about the conduct of health practitioners. AHPRA can then take action including suspending the registration of a health practitioner and launching an investigation. The Inquiry found that many staff, patients and people in the community were not aware of the regulatory functions of AHPRA.

The inquiry recommended that the government establish a new independent regulator and implement a Reportable Conduct Scheme to have the primary role of oversight for children and young people in Tasmanian health services. The inquiry recommended amendments to legislation to ensure that the independent regulator has the powers to protect and investigate allegations of abuse in health settings.

On 1 January 2024, the Reportable Conduct Scheme and the Child and Youth Safe Standards came into effect. Organisations within the Scheme are required to comply with obligations under the Scheme and notify the Office of the Independent Commissioner of reportable allegations within 3 business days. A link to our article on the Tasmanian Reportable Conduct Scheme can be found here.

How can Safe Space Legal Help?

The team at Safe Space Legal have extensive experience conducting reportable conduct investigations and work with organisations across Australia to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations when working with children and young people. Safe Space Legal offer a large range of services including:

  • Drafting child safety policies, procedures, codes of conduct and complaints handling processes which are compliant with legislative requirements;
  • Providing tailored child safety training on legal obligations, duty of care, reportable conduct schemes and child safety;
  • Conducting child safety and safeguarding investigations which are compliant with relevant state and territory Schemes;
  • Providing expert legal advice on safeguarding and child safety matters;
  • Conducting audits against the Standards to recognise practice and policy gaps and improve organisational safeguarding; and
  • Root cause analysis of child safety incidents to improve organisational safeguarding and compliance with legislative obligations.

Contact [email protected] or call (03) 9124 7321 to organise a complementary discussion in relation to your organisation’s child safety and safeguarding needs.

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