Child, Child Sexual Abuse and Institutions defined

The Commission defined the Terms of Reference as shown below:

Child: This definition that the Royal Commission will adopt is the same as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child ….“A child as a person below the age of 18 years.” 

Child Sexual Abuse: It is an act which exposes a child to or involves a child in sexual processes beyond his or her understanding or contrary to accepted community standards. Sexually abusive behaviours can include voyeurism, exhibitionism and exposing the child or involving the child in pornography. It includes child grooming, which refers to actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child to lower the child’s inhibitions in preparation for sexual activity with the child. The Australian Institute of Family Studies refers to child sexual abuse in an institution as being when there is any sexual behaviour between a child and an adult in a position or authority over the child.

Institution: Institutions included within this Royal Commission can be those operated by the Government, not-for-profit organisations or the private sector. An institution can be any public or private body, agency, association, club, organisation or other entity or group of entities of any kind, whether incorporated or unincorporated, and however described.  This is further defined as, for example, an entity or group of entities including one that no longer exists, that provides or has at any time provided activities, facilities, programs or services of any kind that provide means through which adults have contact with children, including through their families, but importantly, does not include the family.

Types of institutions: The Royal Commission will be investigating…

  • Residential care facilities such as orphanages,
  • All religious organisations and their various, however described, entities. Among them are schools, churches, parishes, congregations, dioceses, including archdioceses and religious orders.
  • Recreational and sporting groups are included including organisations like the Girl Guides and Scouts.
  • Childcare centres
  • State Government child protection agencies
  • Other State Government departments and authorities which have responsibilities for children, including the police force
  • Agencies which organise and supervise out of home care
  • Detention centres, including those that house refugees
  • Defence forces
  • Educational facilities, including kindergarten, primary, secondary schools and boarding schools
  • Juvenile justice centres

The Terms of Reference note that child sexual abuse may be accompanied by other unlawful or improper treatment of children including physical assault, exploitation, deprivation and neglect. This type of abuse will be investigated only when in the context of child sexual abuse.

The Terms of Reference stress the need to ensure that evidence received by the Royal Commission which identifies particular individuals as having been involved in child sexual abuse is dealt with in a way that does not prejudice current or future criminal or civil proceedings or other contemporaneous inquiries.


About Peter Kelso

I am a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I have been admitted to practice since 1984. I am the principal and founder of Kelso Lawyers which has operated in Newcastle since 1986.

I have been an advocate for compensation for victims of abuse since the commencement of the Victims Compensation Tribunal in New South Wales in 1988. I conduct the largest victims practice in New South Wales. I have a high level of engagement with numerous NGOs such as woman’s refuges, sexual assault services, community organisations and healing centres.

On 31 October 2012 I was a finalist for the Justice Medal, presented by the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales.

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