Royal Commission reflections: Healing and support for victims and survivors (Week 3)

What has changed since the Royal Commission 

Throughout November we are reflecting on how the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) has changed how we understand and respond to survivors’ healing and support needs.  

In Week 2 we reflected on knowmore’s role as the national legal service for victims and survivors, funded by the Australian Government in response to one of the Royal Commission’s recommendations in Volume 9 of its Final Report. This week, we look at what else has changed as a result of the Royal Commission’s recommendations to improve service systems to better respond to survivors’ needs and help them towards recovery.  

Government commitments to improving service systems 

Since the Royal Commission, governments across Australia have committed to improving responses to child sexual abuse, including by improving service systems for victims and survivors. 

The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030 (the National Strategy) was launched in October 2021 as a joint initiative of the Australian Government and all state and territory governments. The National Strategy sets out many actions that governments will take to help reduce child sexual abuse and its impacts. 

One of the National Strategy’s 5 important themes is Supporting and empowering victims and survivors (Theme 2). The actions under this theme are focused on making sure survivors can get trauma-informed help from a range of services when they need it. One of the first actions governments have promised to take is to set up a website and helpline like the Royal Commission recommended. This will help survivors and their supporters to get information and resources and will provide referrals to local support services. 

The National Strategy sits alongside other plans from the states and territories that include actions to improve service systems. These include Safe Homes, Families, Communities: Tasmania’s Action Plan for Family and Sexual Violence 2019–2022 and Prevent. Support. Believe. Queensland’s Framework to Address Sexual Violence. 

Some practical initiatives have also been put in place to help survivors get the support they need. For example: 

These additions to the service system sit alongside the many existing specialist and mainstream services across Australia that continue to provide essential support to victims and survivors. These include dedicated support and advocacy services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and crisis support services. 

“I think it’s one of the big achievements… of the Royal Commission, that alongside the commission, the lasting legacy is knowmore, and other support services.” Julie Blyth, Community Engagement Manager at SAMSN 

The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse 

As we discussed in Week 1, the Royal Commission recommended that the Australian Government establish a national centre to lead ongoing work to raise awareness and understanding of child sexual abuse, support help-seeking by survivors, and promote best practice in support services. In October 2021, the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse (the National Centre) was launched as a joint initiative of Blue Knot Foundation, The Healing Foundation and the Australian Childhood Foundation 

In its first year, the National Centre has focused on developing a 5-year strategy to set out what it aims to do and achieve. The draft 5-year strategy recognises that victims and survivors are often unable to access the support and resources they need throughout their lives. The strategy includes a number of actions aimed at making it easier for survivors to get the specialist support they need, when and where they need it. The strategy also includes some actions to help make mainstream services more trauma-informed and responsive to survivors’ needs. The National Centre has invited people to give feedback on the draft 5-year strategy until 13 January 2023. 

The National Centre has also set up three colleges to make sure the voices of survivors and others with lived and living experience are at the heart of its work. There is a Survivor-led Adult College, a First Nations College and a Children and Young People College. The colleges give survivors and others the chance to contribute to the direction of the National Centre and share knowledge from their communities about what actions need to be taken. 

While we welcome the steps governments and others have taken to improve responses to survivors’ support needs, we believe that much more still needs to be done to achieve the truly responsive service system the Royal Commission envisaged. Join us in the final week of our November reflections as we share our views on what other important changes are needed to the service system to help survivors on their healing journeys.