Landmark National Strategy to tackle child sexual abuse

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Representational image only. Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

The Australian Government today launched the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse (2021-2030), a 10 year whole-of-nation framework.

Calling it a landmark National Strategy and the first of its kind, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “This is a watershed day for Australia. Today we deliver the first ever long-term, truly national plan to protect our children from the scourge of sexual abuse.”

“Australians were rightly shocked and appalled at the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and we made a promise to do everything possible to end these abhorrent crimes.

“We have made great strides since then, through the National Redress Scheme, establishing the National Office for Child Safety, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, and the world’s first eSafety Commissioner. But, this is the next big step.

“While the Royal Commission was focused on child sexual abuse in institutions, the National Strategy targets child sexual abuse in all settings, including in the family and online.

“We must stop the abuse, and we must better support those who have been abused and we are contributing an initial $307.5 million commitment to implement the National Strategy.”

The National Strategy was developed in partnership with state and territory governments and in consultation with hundreds of stakeholders, including victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates, children and young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people with disability and their advocates.

The first phase of the National Strategy will be driven by two, four-year action plans:

  • the First National Action Plan, which will be delivered by Commonwealth, state and territory governments in a coordinated and consistent approach
  • the First Commonwealth Action Plan, which will be primarily delivered by Commonwealth agencies.

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton said both action plans would deliver real protections for Australian children, and better supports for victims and survivors.

“The Royal Commission held more than 8,000 private sessions, received a further 1,000 written accounts, and more than 42,000 calls and 26,000 letters and emails from victims and survivors and their supporters, and we sadly know the number of child sexual assaults recorded by police is only increasing,” Minister Morton said.

“The Royal Commission made clear we need to work better across jurisdictions to address these heartbreaking statistics and their related harms, and that is the National Strategy’s central aim.

“Together we will deliver measures like a national awareness raising campaign, a helpline, extra research, and further frontline support services.”

Key measures from the First National Action Plan include:

  • $22.3 million to deliver a national awareness raising campaign on child sexual abuse
  • $3.8 million for The National Indigenous Australians Agency to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts to design and trial a resource to support frontline health workers
  • $18.6 million to implement a National Victim Identification Framework for online child sexual abuse
  • $22.4 million over six years to conduct a second wave of the world-leading Australian Child Maltreatment Study.

Key measures from the Commonwealth Action Plan include:

    • $59.9 million worth of initiatives to be delivered by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to combat child sexual abuse, including:
      • establishing dedicated Strike Surge Teams to target organised crime aspects of online child sexual abuse
      • boosting the AFP’s technology capability to address advances like end-to-end encryption and the dark web
      • Technology Detection Dogs—trained to detect hidden technical devices containing illicit content when officers are executing warrants
  • $24.1 million to strengthen Commonwealth capacity to prosecute child sexual abuse offenders
  • $13.1 million to fund an independent national service to provide free legal advice to all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
  • $10.9 million to co-design place-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches to support survivors of child sexual abuse
  • $4.9 million to keep children safe while they play sport.

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