The Senate's 'Forgotten Australians' report of 2004 called on the Commonwealth Government to require that 'all charitable and church-run institutions and out-of-home care facilities to open their files and premises and provide full cooperation to authorities' to investigate the criminal physical and/or sexual assault of children in institutional 'care' and the concealment of these criminal practices. If 'the requisite full cooperation" was not received, and "failing full access and investigation as required', the Senate Committee recommended the establishment of a Royal Commission.
The subsequent inquiry in 2009 into the implementation of the recommendations of the 'Lost Innocents' and 'Forgotten Australians' reports contained submissions from stakeholders about the issue of a Royal Commission. The majority of stakeholders were in favour of a Royal Commission. The submission from Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN) noted that the conditions the Senate had set to prevent the holding of such an inquiry had not been met - institutions, agencies and facilities had not cooperated with authorities investigating historical crimes. The Alliance for Forgotten Australians (AFA) stated that a royal commission or formal inquiry into state government, charitable and church-run institutions may be the only way to obtain the truth and to bring accountability.
The 2009 Senate report outlined the nature and powers of royal commissions, notably their extensive powers and procedural flexibility. Some drawbacks were also noted, including the likely timeframe of a royal commission, the possible cost and the likelihood of significant outcomes in the identification and successful prosecution of crimes the subject of the inquiry. Dr Joanna Penglase described the 'catch-22' situation of a royal commission diverting resources from care leaver services - 'you do not get services unless you have the inquiry'.
Throughout 2012, the Care Leavers of Australia Network (CLAN) campaigned for a Royal Commission, holding 'silent protests' and printing postcards aimed at state and federal politicians.
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The Find & Connect Support Service can help people who lived in orphanages and children's institutions look for their records.
09 November 2018
Cite this: https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/australia/FE00101
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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