Inquiry Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Force

Alternative Names
  • Paedophile Inquiry
  • Wood Royal Commission
Inquiry Type
Royal Commission
Australia; New South Wales

Key Dates

May 1994
Announcement date
13 May 1994 - 30 Jun 1997
Period of operation
18 March 1996 - March 1997
Public hearings
26 August 1997
Final Report


The Royal Commission into the New South Wales (NSW) Police Service was established to investigate the existence and extent of police corruption in the state. In December 1994, the Inquiry was expanded to include investigation into the protection of paedophiles by NSW Police. The focus of this part of the Inquiry was to assess the depth and gravity of the overall problem of paedophilia, to identify deficiencies in the impartiality and adequacy of the responses of police and other public officials, and to make recommendations for reform. This part of the broader Royal Commission was referred to as 'The Paedophile Inquiry'.

The Process
The Royal Commission held public and private hearings, interviews with victims and offenders, and informal and formal discussions with experts, police and other authorities. Research, surveillance and undercover operations were also undertaken and public submissions were received.

Governing Legislation
Royal Commissions Act 1923; Royal Commission (Police Service) Act 1994; Royal Commission (Police Service) Amendment Act 1994.

Governing Authority
State Government of New South Wales

Inquiry Locations
The Royal Commission was held in the Australian state of NSW.

Public Hearings
For the Paedophile Inquiry, the Royal Commission held public hearings to examine the adequacy of a range of police investigations in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. It also held hearings into churches and clergy, the handling of abuse allegations by the Department of School Education, into activities in the city of Wollongong, the Health Care Complaints Commission, the Community Services Commission, the Department of Community Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, crisis accommodation provided at Caretakers Cottage, the Child Protection Council, pre-trial diversion programs, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Department of Corrective Services, the Seabeach Kindergarten, the Special Branch, the Department of Health, and the Internet. Evidence was also taken from various experts, both in Australia and internationally.

Private Sessions
In camera evidence was taken.

Case Studies
The Paedophile Inquiry undertook case studies in relation to specific claims, or organisations or past investigations.

Written Submissions
95 submissions are listed in the final report, but this does not include confidential submissions. Survivors are not clearly delineated in this list.

The final report mentions four people who prepared commissioned research for the Royal Commission but their work was not directly related to the Paedophile Inquiry. The Royal Commission had an internal research branch.

Roundtable Discussions
The report mentions informal conversations with experts.

243 witnesses listed but survivors are not listed as a separate category. In addition to survivors witnesses include family members, judges, police officers, public servants, service providers, religious leaders and experts.

It is not clear from the lists but in the report it is stated that males predominated.

Institutions examined include police, judicial system, churches, state government departments, schools, community groups and carers.

The Inquiry found that paedophiles present in many guises and sexual orientations. It concluded that the phenomenon is widespread, but the response to the problem has been piecemeal and inadequate.

140 recommendations were made. Key recommendations include the establishment of specialised units within the police and Department of Community Services; improved selection, screening and training for personnel across a range of government and non-government organisations, law reform around gender neutral language, judicial procedures and creation of new offences; support and treatment services for victims and offenders, an ongoing public awareness campaign, introduction of a register of offenders and extensions to mandatory reporting, and the creation of a Children's Commission.

The cost of the Royal Commission is not detailed in the Report. Media reports estimate it to have been in the order of $64 million.


Final Reports


See also

Acknowledgement: this summary was prepared by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University