Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse handed down its final report. Part of the brief was to consider children in immigration detention environments. Here are some key points.

  • Systemic issues within onshore immigration detention and at the Nauru Regional Processing Centre may be contributing to an increased risk of abuse.
  • There are significant barriers to disclosing and reporting child sexual abuse in immigration detention.
  • A wide range of institutional factors in immigration detention may enable child sexual abuse to occur including

a culture of secrecy and isolation that normalises harmful practices or dehumanises and criminalises children

racist, prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes that prioritise the reputation of the institution over the interests of children.

These factors make child sexual abuse in immigration detention more likely to occur and less likely to be noticed, disclosed, reported or responded to appropriately.

  • Immigration detention was identified as a specific institutional context with an elevated risk of child sexual abuse. The features that add to that risk include: lack of privacy, the close proximity of children and adults in some settings, the clustering together of higher risk groups.
  • Concerns included the department’s lack of capability to manage complex cases, ineffective risk assessment systems, inadequate staff training, incomplete and unreliable child abuse incident records of and inadequate information sharing resulting in inappropriate transfer and placement decisions.


  • Institutions should implement the Child Safe Standards, with the attendant audit and oversight mechanisms
  • Once the Australian Government ratifies the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the National Preventive Mechanism(s) organisations ‘should be provided with the expertise to consider and make recommendations relating to preventing and responding to child sexual abuse as part of regularly examining the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in places of detention.’ [Note: The Optional Protocol was ratified following the release of the report, BUT ITS OVERSIGHT PROVISIONS WILL NOT APPLY TO OFFSHORE PLACES OF DETENTION SUCH AS NAURU.]

Other recommendations included:

  • establishing a mechanism to regularly audit the implementation of the Child Safe Standards
  • contractually requiring service providers to comply with the Child Safe Standards
  • providing therapeutic support for victims, appropriate training for staff
  • designating appropriately qualified child safety officers implementing an independent visitors program in immigration detention.

It is ChilOut’s view that the nature of offshore detention makes it inherently unsafe for children. No child safety standards can protect a child in a place which is so remote, largely inaccessible to support agencies, mental and physical health facilities, to state nothing of the deleterious effects of long term or indefinite detention. As our Nauru website clearly demonstrates Nauru is #NoPlaceForChildren. It’s #NoPlaceForAnyone. We absolutely MUST #BringThemHere and #CloseTheCamps.


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