New Laws To Further Protect Children From Sexual Abuse

The Andrews Labor Government is providing greater access to justice for child abuse victims by removing time limitations that apply to civil claims for founded upon child abuse, with a new law coming into effect today.

This law completely removes the limitation period for all relevant child abuse civil claims regardless of the time or context of the alleged abuse allowing victims to commence legal action regardless of when the abuse occurred.

Previously, time limitations were one of the major barriers faced by victims of child abuse who wished to pursue legal action.

The Labor Government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Betrayal of Trust report from the Family and Community Development Committee of the Victorian Parliament Inquiry into The Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations.

The Government is also strengthening laws to protect children from sexual abuse. A new criminal offence for failing to protect a child under the age of 16 from a risk of sexual abuse comes into effect today.

The new law will require organisations responsible for supervising children to actively manage the risks of sexual offences being committed against children in their care and further protect them from harm.

Under the changes, people in authority within certain organisations could go to jail for up to five years if they know of a risk of abuse to a child in their care or supervision, and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.

Organisations responsible for supervising or caring for children include:

  • Churches
  • Education and care services, including childcare centres and kindergartens, schools and other educational institutions
  • Hospitals and other health services
  • Sporting groups
  • Charities and benevolent organisations providing services for children

Organisations are also expected to have a range of systems in place to protect children from abuse, including appropriate pre-employment screening arrangements and systems for reporting and responding to allegations of abuse.

Quotes attributable to Attorney-General, Martin Pakula

“Lifting time limitations for civil claims founded upon child abuse will give victims greater access to justice, allowing their suffering to be rightfully acknowledged and allowing those to blame to be held to account for the harm they’ve caused.”

“It is everyone’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for children to develop, learn and play, especially organisations responsible for caring for children.”

“These new laws will hold people in authority within these organisations to account for their actions and ensure that they place the safety and welfare of children first.”