Community briefs on Sexual Abuse Royal Commission

March 18, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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The Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Peter Wertheim and Immediate Past President, Robert Goot, have met with the Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Peter McLellan

Peter McLellan

Chair Justice Peter McClellan, briefed Wertheim and Goot about the way the Commission will operate, the resources available to it and time estimates for completing various phases of the Inquiry.

“The Chairman made it clear that religious communities and religious schools will not be the exclusive focus of the Inquiry, but they will necessarily be included in the spread of institutions covered”, Wertheim said.

“Some other key points to emerge from the briefing:

  • The first sitting of the Royal Commission is scheduled for 3 April in Melbourne.
  • There will be both public hearings and private sessions with 1 or 2 Commissioners. 
The private sessions are for people with information who do not want for any reason 
to give evidence at a public hearing.
  • Information from private sessions will not be evidence or the foundation for any 
finding. However, such information might result in a referral to the Police or be used to guide further investigations of institutions or individuals. Such institutions or individuals will be notified beforehand of any potentially adverse information against them and will be accorded procedural fairness.
  • There will be no findings of abuse per se, only findings about institutional and cultural failures in preventing and dealing with abuse.
  • The focus will be on producing recommendations for institutional and cultural change, where needed, and evaluating recommendations made in some 30 previous inquiries.
  • A wide spread of institutions will be covered as regards both the types of institutions and their geographical locations.
  • Peter Wertheim

    Peter Wertheim

    A telephone answering service will be available to possible informants. The persons taking the calls will be specially trained to deal sympathetically with alleged victims and to refer them to counselling and law enforcement agencies where appropriate.

  • A ‘ring-tail’ IT system has been established to capture and retrieve data.
  • The Interim Report is expected to be out by mid-2014.
  • The ECAJ asked the Chairman to be notified in the event that any Jewish school or other organisation becomes a focus of the Commission’s investigations.
  • The ECAJ could seek leave to appear for any segment of the Inquiry that relates to a Jewish organisation, and to make submissions about best practice for screening employees and volunteers, educating children and parents about the problem, responding in various situations and handling complaints.”
Robert Goot

Robert Goot

“Any person in our community who anticipates appearing at the Royal Commission, at either a public hearing or a private session, is welcome to contact me to obtain further information about the process. If I cannot answer the question myself, I am happy to seek the information from the Commission in the name of the ECAJ”, Wertheim said.

Others attending the meeting included Counsel assisting, Gail Furness, Commissioner Bob Atkinson and CEO Janette Dines.

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