The Letters Patent establishing the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse tell us that "all children deserve a safe and happy childhood".
To help achieve that end, the Commission is directed to inquire into:
what institutions and governments should do to better protect children against child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts in the future;
what institutions and governments should do to...encourage reporting of......child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts;
what should be done to eliminate or reduce impediments... for responding to child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts
Last year the Commission released its interim report - here's the Commission's announcement:
About the Interim Report
Volume 1 outlines why we are here, what we have done, what we're learning and what we need to do next.
Volume 2 includes the personal stories of 150 people who shared their experience of abuse. They have been chosen as a representative group and all names and other identifying features have been changed.
Here are some word counts from the two volumes:
- Catholic - 159
- Anglican - 54
- Church - 327
- Priest - 193
- Salvation Army - 52
- Christian - 63
- Marist - 15
- Brother - 383
- Muslim - zero
- Islam - zero
- Child-bride - zero
- genital mutilation - zero
The Commission's broader website yields similar results - the words Muslim, Islam, child-bride or genital-mutilation simply don't appear. It's hard to argue that 327 mentions of "Church" against zero mentions of "Islam" accurately reflects institutional involvement in child-abuse in Australia.
The Australian case of Madley v Madley (pseudonyms) was brought by a 16 year old girl who wanted to prevent her parents from sending her to a Middle Eastern country for a forced, underaged marriage. In granting her application, the Magistrate said:
- The application is one that is becoming increasingly common both before this Court and the Family Court.
- .......this young person’s parents have made arrangements for her to marry a person whom she has met on one occasion. The wedding has been planned to take place in a little under two weeks time and would involve this child flying from Australia to a non Hague convention middle eastern country for the purpose of that marriage occurring.
In 2013 the National Children's and Youth Law Centre produced a report on forced child marriages. It surveyed Australian government and non-government agencies working with children. Of 91 respondents, 50 had encountered children at risk of forced marriage in the past 24 months. Underage marriages are against the law. It's child abuse. It's a big and growing problem. But our Royal Commission seems unaware of it.
Here's a report from the ABC dated 2 December 2014.
Nine-year-old suspected child bride leaves Australia to be married, Immigrant Women's Health Service says
A nine-year-old Sydney girl has allegedly left the country to be married overseas, just one of a dozen cases since June, a women's health service says.
The Immigrant Women's Health Service in western Sydney said it received a tip-off on Monday about a case involving a nine-year-old child bride.
The service spoke to the girl's mother but said it could not get specific information. It is suspected the girl will be married in the Middle East.
Government's response was a new "safety plan" with pamphlets, posters and the like.
Here's the reaction from a working professional in the area:
But Dr Eman Sharobeem, director of the Immigrant Women's Health Service, said the strategy would not work because girls were too scared to implicate their families.
"Forced marriage and child brides happen among the culturally and linguistically diverse communities, those communities will not go to the website and will not share glossy papers to see what's written about legislation in the country," she said.
"I don't hope and wish to see parents behind bars ... I already tried with many of them to talk about informing the authorities, and as soon as I put that on the table the girls actually turn their back and say 'we're not even going to have a conversation with you'."
Instead Dr Sharobeem said the Government's new strategy needed to put more resources towards grassroots education campaigns and to teach girls how to speak to their families.
"'Teach us how to talk to our parents, because our own mother wants to send us to a man we don't know', are some of the words I heard from these girls," Dr Sharobeem said.
"It breaks my heart to see that we're trying our best to save lives and yet the Government is printing glossy paper."
It breaks my heart too. We have a Royal Commission inquiring into the way Institutions respond to child abuse. An institution includes a religion, and we seem to be zealously inquiring into the Christian churches and their practices dating to the 1950s. How about a bit of focus on a clear and present danger to children which shows no sign of abating into the future?
In the same way as it has exhaustively examined the practices of the Catholic Church, this Royal Commission must examine the Koran, Hadith and Shura, along with Islamist preaching. The Royal Commission will have failed us if it continues to ignore these crimes against children.