Indigenous Law Bulletin 8(13)


In this edition, we explore how the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is engaging with Indigenous Australians. Although this is a national issue, the impact of the Stolen Generations and the high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home-care, suggests that Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by institutional child abuse, including sexual abuse.

In compiling this edition, my aim was to understand how the Commission has supported Indigenous people to tell their story. I soon realised that an in-depth analysis of the Stolen Generations was required (see Reflecting on The Stolen Generations by Peter Read) to convey how these past policies of forced removal continue to affect Aboriginal people.

In hearing from the Aboriginal Legal Service Western Australia (see Why the Caged Bird Sings: Issues with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse) it also became apparent why some Indigenous people might not want to share their stories. It is not easy to share stories of abuse, and many Indigenous people have already told theirs to past government inquiries, including the Bringing Them Home report and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The trauma of these inquiries has in some cases become a barrier in telling their story to the Commission. The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Care (see Keeping Kids Safe at Home is Key to Preventing Institutional Abuse) has also raised concerns over a lack of action being taken as a result of those inquiries.

Despite these concerns, I am grateful that Commissioner Helen Milroy has taken the time to answer an in-depth interview. Thanks also to Dr Hannah McGlade and Indigenous Law Centre (‘ILC’) Director, Prof Megan Davis for their important contribution (see The Royal Commission and International Child Rights Law); and to ILC Fellow Dr Kyllie Cripps, for her advice and article (see Who’s Failing Who? New Failure to Protect Laws in Victoria and the impact on Indigenous mothers and their children). I wouldalso like to highlight the work of Lawyer, Tanya Pass. Her article demonstrates how important community legal education is to Indigenous communities.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this edition to those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by institutional child abuse; and to the many Indigenous organisations who are continuing to seek justice and peace for survivors.

Rebecca Gallegos

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