New legislation to keep our children and young people safe

Elise Archer,Attorney-General

Minister for Justice

The Tasmanian Liberal Government is committed to ensuring the future protection of our children and young people.

It is absolutely clear there have been too many times where steps were not taken to protect children in organisations where concerns were raised about an adult working with children, along with cases where adults have been transferred by organisations, placing other children and young people at risk.

New crime of failing to protect –

As part of our ongoing commitment to keep our most vulnerable safe, legislation to introduce a new crime of ‘failing to protect a child or young person’ will be drafted this year.

This will ensure that adults in leadership positions within organisations that care for children must focus on protecting children and young people from sexual abuse – better protecting all children and young people under the age of 18 years from risks presented by an adult in a position of authority.

While reporting to police might be one of the steps that a person can take to protect a child, it might not be sufficient to reduce or remove the risk of abuse. Therefore, in some circumstances, it will be a crime not to take other available steps, particularly if the risk is immediate and other steps are available that will allow an intervention to occur more quickly.

It is important to note that the new crime will only be able to be committed by adults in the organisation, and not by children or young people who are in leadership positions.

Importantly, progressing this legislation is already well underway and I expect to present a draft bill for community consultation and then to Parliament before the end of the year.

I am deeply committed to better protecting our children, and the implementation of all the Recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Since I released our Government’s response to the Royal Commission, we have completed 206 recommendations of the 306 recommendations that relate to the Tasmanian Government, and we commit to fast-tracking the remaining 100 recommendations, 92 of which have already commenced, to improve the safety of children and young people in our system.

Further amendments to the Criminal Code –

Additionally, our Government does not accept that children or young people can ‘consent’ to sexual intercourse with their teachers, sports coaches, and people who hold roles in organisations that place them in a position of authority over children and young people.

To ensure that the criminal justice system recognises the vulnerability of children and young people, I will also be amending the Criminal Code to create a presumption that children and young people have not ‘consented’ to sexual intercourse with adults in organisations who should be protecting them.

This will bring the criminal law into line with community expectations, and make it easier for children and young people to achieve justice through the criminal justice system.

Child and Youth Safe Organisations Framework –

I am taking the lead and progressing the implementation of key Royal Commission recommendations relating to Child Safe Organisations, Child Safe Standards, and a Reportable Conduct Scheme. The Framework will be overseen by a dedicated and independent oversight and regulation body. This work is well advanced and a bill will be presented this year.

I want to see our children and young people grow, learn, play, and work in child safe environments, where they are taken seriously, valued and empowered, and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve this.

I am confident that Tasmania’s approach to Child and Youth Safe Organisations will create a nation-leading, comprehensive system to support organisations to protect children and young people.

Lastly, I want to again extend my sincere gratitude to victim-survivors for their bravery in coming forward and telling their experiences, so we can better protect children. I am looking forward to hearing from people with lived experience through an Advisory Panel and incorporating their expertise into the Framework.

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