The NSW Government response to the recommendations of the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is now available. The Government has endorsed the overwhelming majority of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission. All of the Commission’s recommendations relating to records and recordkeeping (recommendations 8.1 – 8.5) have been accepted or accepted in principle. NSW State Archives and Records will continue to work with relevant NSW agencies and the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA) to support implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
A key recordkeeping recommendation of the Commission was that records relating to child sexual abuse that has occurred or is alleged to have occurred should be retained for at least 45 years. This is to allow for delayed disclosure by abuse victims. NSW State Archives and Records recently conducted an audit of current retention and disposal authorities to identify any authorities that may require review or amendment to ensure this minimum retention requirement is met. We will liaise with relevant agencies regarding any proposed amendments or updates to their functional authority identified by the audit.
In the interim, NSW public offices likely to be maintaining records relevant to the provision of care and services to children or to victims of abuse need to continue to be mindful and observant of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the introduction of the National Redress Scheme and reforms to civil litigation law when undertaking records disposal activities.
* that have or have had responsibility for the provision of direct services to children and young people (e.g. schools, kindergartens, pre-school, after school, early childhood and childcare services, youth support services and detention centres, hospitals, health, disability, community and child welfare or protection services). This may also include agencies involved in the provision of educational activities and sporting programs for children and young people
* that have or have had responsibility for the funding, control, regulation, licencing, accreditation and oversight of services involved in the provision of services to children and young people (e.g. departments providing youth, family and community services, justice and education agencies, Children’s Guardian, complaints handling bodies such as NSW Ombudsman, etc., as well as local government)
* that have or have had responsibility for the receipt, investigation or prosecution of allegations.
* specific cases of abuse or allegations of abuse, particularly how it was handled within the agency or referred to other agencies
* agency policy and procedures for the handling of allegations or reports of abuse (including response, investigation or referral and follow-up).
Agencies should also ensure records of potential evidentiary value to victims pursuing civil compensation claims or claims under the redress scheme are appropriately identified and measures are in place to ensure records are retained for sufficient periods to enable any individual claims to be made and settled. This may encompass records relevant to providing evidence of a person having been in the care of an institution (as defined by the Royal Commission) or relating to the provision of health care, support or counselling services to victims.
Where an agency engages (or has engaged) other organisations to provide services relating to children and young people we recommend the agency should also liaise with these organisations to ensure they are aware of the Royal Commission’s recommendations and the NSW Government response.
The Final Report of the Royal Commission is available from the Royal Commission’s website at: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
For the NSW Government’s response see www.nsw.gov.au/improving-nsw/projects-and-initiatives/the-nsw-government-response-to-the-royal-commissions-final-report
The responses of the Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments are also available at: www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/Australian-Government-Response-to-the-Royal-Commission-into-Institutional-Responses-to-Child-Sexual-Abuse/Pages/default.aspx.
NSW State Archives and Records will continue to provide advice on this matter as appropriate.