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Only a Royal Commission can reveal the full extent of child abuse

By Andrew Bartlett - posted Wednesday, 16 July 2003

Perhaps the greatest test of any government is how it treats children.

Frankly, under the Howard government, children are not the priority they deserve to be.

Witness the government's extreme actions to keep children locked behind razor wire in immigration detention; even the Prime Minister's inquiry into the rebuttable presumption of shared residence for parents in Family Court proceedings - a suggestion that panders to the interests (and votes) of men's rights groups but runs completely contrary to decades of research that shows such a system - is not in the best interests of the child.


But where this government fails children most is its inaction on the fundamental issue of child protection.

Protecting children from abuse must undeniably be a basic tenet of any society.

Yet what we have is a government paralysed, unable or unwilling to act when faced with increasing evidence of a national problem of child sexual abuse.

The latest investigation into child sexual abuse, by the Anglican Church in South Australia, is welcome.

But, again, it is an inquiry into one church organisation in one State and it will not have the legal powers to ensure a comprehensive investigation or full protection of witnesses who may give evidence.

Child protection demands a national focus. Only a Royal Commission will provide this.


Child sex abuse is not limited to the church. It is certainly not limited to the Anglican Church. It is most particularly not limited only to Anglican Church organisations in Brisbane and Adelaide, which are both the most recent focus of investigations.

The Adelaide inquiry follows claims by two clergymen that up to 200 victims were abused by church staff over a period of almost four decades. The Brisbane inquiry ultimately led to the resignation of Governor-General Peter Hollingworth after it was found he protected a known paedophile operating within the diocese - a paedophile who is alleged to have strong links with some of the people whose actions now being investigated by the Church in Adelaide.

Child sexual assault exists across all sorts of organisations and we need a comprehensive Royal Commission so we can get some clear ground to deal with the issue of protecting children.

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About the Author

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. He graduated from University of Queensland with a degree in social work and has been involved in a wide range of community organisations and issues, including human rights, housing, immigration, Indigneous affairs, environment, animal rights and multiculturalism. He is a member of National Forum. He blogs at Bartlett's Blog.

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