The Terms of Reference Revisited, Part 1 (Or: Still a Host of Devils in the Detail)

The previous posting on the terms of reference for the Royal Commission only covered the most basic aspects. The problems arising from them will take a much more thorough coverage.

The principal issue to be addressed is that of covering only sexual abuse of children. It rarely occurs in isolation from other forms of abuse including physical, emotional, spiritual, and systems abuse. There must be ways to incorporate them in deliberations which demonstrate this linkage.

There is also the very real problem of what responsibility is apportioned to individual organisations. There will be very few cases where there is not a shared responsibility between different organisations.

A very critical consideration is that it has not been spelled out sufficiently just who will be given the opportunity to address the commission. It seems that, as things presently stand, time constraints will be used to deny many victims a voice.

The issue of which proceedings will be held in secret and which in public also arises. There is no real statement on what will, for example, be televised. Further, there needs to be a clearer statement on when transcripts will become publicly available.

No provision is made in the terms of reference for the allocation of matters between the six commissioners. This needs to be treated in a transparent manner and have provisions for individual allocations to be challenged.

While the terms of reference allow for full-time staff, including an investigative unit, details are not provided. As noted earlier, the devil is often in the detail. Here that old adage truly applies and can make the difference to whether the whole inquiry retains public credibility.

TOMORROW: Terms of reference – types of abuse

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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