Inquiry Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-government Organisations

Alternative Names
  • Betrayal of Trust
Inquiry Type
Parliamentary Inquiry
Australia; Victoria

Key Dates

1950s - 2010s
Period of investigation
April 2012 - November 2013
Period of operation
17 April 2012
Announcement date
19 October 2012 - 3 June 2013
Public hearings
13 November 2013
Final Report


The Inquiry examined processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations. The Terms of Reference included consideration of practices, policies and protocols for handling allegations, measures put in place by organisations in response to concerns and the exposure of abuse; how organisations can prevent criminal abuse; and the existence of systemic practices to preclude or discourage reporting of abuse. The Inquiry was charged with making recommendations for changes needed to help prevent or deal with allegations of abuse.

The Process
The Inquiry received written submissions, held public and private hearings, and conducted inhouse research.

Governing Legislation
Reference under Section 33(1)(b) of the Parliamentary Committees Act 200

Inquiry Locations
Australia; Victoria; Melbourne, with additional hearings in Bendigo, Geelong and Ballarat.

Public Hearings
106 public hearings.

Private Sessions
56 private hearings.

Written Submissions
The inquiry received 450 written submissions (325 from victims and family members), comprising 305 public, 38 name-withheld and 107 confidential. Three submissions were later withdrawn. It also accepted 92 supplementary submissions.

Researchers in the Secretariat conducted a literature review and accessed archival organisational files.

36 survivors (or family members of victims); 25 experts, 13 representatives of survivor support organisations, 28 institutional representatives; 5 government.

Victim/survivors 27 male, 8 female gave evidence.

The Inquiry examined religious organisations (15 submissions, 9 witnesses), schools (3 submissions, 3 witnesses), other institutions (4 submissions, 3 witnesses), sporting clubs (1 submission, 1 witness) and community organisations (5 submissions, 5 witnesses). There is a particular focus on the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church. Institutions investigated were both single sex and mixed.

The Inquiry found that organisations were aware of abuse in the past but their responses to it were motivated by self interest and the protection of the organisation rather than the safety and rights of the children.

15 recommendations were made. Key recommendations include reforms to the criminal law, improved access to civil litigation, establishment of independent redress mechanism, monitoring responses in the future and the creation of child safe environments.

Further Action
The Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations was influential in the decision to establish the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Related Inquiries
Directly influential in establishment of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse


Final Reports


See also

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