Betrayal of Trust

Betrayal of Trust

The Family and Community Development Committee has released its report from the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations entitled “Betrayal of Trust.”

Terms of reference

The Family and Community Development Committee was requested to inquire into, consider and report to the Parliament of Victoria on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations, including the following.

1) The practices, policies and protocols in such organisations for the handling of allegations of criminal abuse of children, including measures put in place by various organisations in response to concerns about such abuse within the organisation or the potential for such abuse to occur.

2) Whether there are systemic practices in such organisations that operate to preclude or discourage the reporting of suspected criminal abuse of children to State authorities.

3) Whether changes to law or to practices, policies and protocols in such organisations are required to help prevent criminal abuse of children by personnel in such organisations and to deal with allegations of such abuse.

In undertaking the inquiry, the Committee was to be mindful of not encroaching upon the responsibilities of investigatory agencies or the courts in relation to particular cases or prejudicing the conduct or outcome of investigations or court proceedings.

Read the executive summary and recommendations below, or download the entire report.

Introduction to the executive summary

Each year hundreds of thousands of children and young people in Victoria spend time involved with religious and other non-government organisations. These organisations provide a broad range of valuable services and social programs including child care, education, social activities, spiritual guidance and sports and recreation programs. Some organisations also provide temporary or permanent residential care away from the family.

The overwhelming majority of children who participate in organisational activities or who are cared for by personnel in non-government organisations are safe and they gain great benefit from engaging in such activities and services.

Given children’s vulnerability and dependence on adults, however, there will always be a degree of risk of them being criminally abused by employees or others associated with non-government organisations. The community now acknowledges the incidence of criminal abuse over many years in some of society’s most trusted and respected institutions and organisations.
The criminal abuse of children represents a departure of the gravest kind from the standards of decency fundamental to any civilised society. Although our society has understood this for a long time, we have not given enough attention to the need to take adequate protective measures to prevent it.

The experience of criminal child abuse has profound and lifelong consequences for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of victims. For parents of children abused in the care of trusted organisations, it is a betrayal beyond comprehension.

Community outrage at the occurrence of criminal child abuse in organisations has led to the establishment of public inquiries internationally, nationally and in Victoria. Notably in Australia, religious organisations have generally been overlooked in these inquiries. In addition, religious organisations in Victoria have generally not initiated internal reviews to determine the extent of criminal child abuse and how their systems and processes may have contributed to its occurrence.

Religious organisations are among the most revered and trusted institutions in society. Internationally, the exposure of systemic child abuse in religious organisations has called into question this trust and the integrity of some of these organisations. The Catholic Church, in particular, has been at the centre of a worldwide scandal.

Continue reading below.

Betrayal of Trust

Volume 1 [PDF 2.2Mb]
Volume 2 [PDF 4.0Mb]

Executive summary & recommendations



Visit the Parliament of Victoria website for more information.

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