The Tasmanian government will develop laws to prosecute authorities who do not protect a child or young person from a substantial risk of sexual violence.
Liberal Prime Minister Jeremy Rocliffe on Tuesday announced his intention amid the current commission to investigate state government reactions to sexual violence in public institutions.
Survivors said an investigation into public hearings ahead of a final report due in May 2023 on allegations that went unheeded and allegedly insulting teachers changed schools.
“Too many children have supported government agencies and are living with injuries after being betrayed by a person they should have trusted,” Mr Rocliffe told the state parliament.
He said that this year a legislative act will be drafted and, I hope, passed, which will create a new crime – failure to protect a child or young person.
It will target people who have power in an organization who cannot protect a child from a significant risk of sexual abuse by adults associated with that organization.
Tasmania has mandatory reporting laws that require professionals such as teachers and principals to report allegations of child abuse.
The state government also plans to amend the Penal Code to introduce the presumption that children under the age of 17 cannot consent to sexual intercourse if a person is in a position of authority over them.
Mr Rocliffe reported on many changes in government processes, including more informed codes of conduct in the investigation of injuries, better sharing of information with bodies and victims and a more consistent response to the right to information (RTI).
Mr Rockley expressed regret to the victims and said he would issue a formal apology on behalf of parliament after the public hearing on the investigation.
Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children and Youth, Liane McLean, welcomed the commitments and called on the government to act quickly.
Department of Education Secretary Tim Bullard said during an investigation earlier this month that a “mosaic of approaches” was used to investigate historical allegations of abuse.
One of the survivors said during the investigation that he needed permission from his abuser to access government information as part of an RTI request.
Mr Rockley said any civil servants who approached the investigation would receive support and receive a two-day leave.
Labor opposition leader Rebecca White said she was encouraged to see a clear statement from the government.
“(However) it seemed there were no delivery times for many commitments. We will look for some details,” she said.
About $ 36 million over four years will be allocated to the state budget on Thursday to fund childcare workers in all public schools, as well as other initiatives.
Officers, some trained existing teachers and others new staff, will become “focal points” for contact on child safety in schools.
This was one of 20 recommendations of an independent report published in November.
It was found that the education department in the 1970s, 80s and 90s was primarily concerned with protecting itself from legal, financial and reputational risks when handling complaints of abuse.
The investigation was called in November 2020 after allegations of abuse against a nurse from northern Tasmania and staff at a youth detention center attracted public attention.