We answer your FAQs
- What is a Royal Commission?
- When did the Royal Commission commence and how long will it go for?
- Will there be compensation for victims?
- How can I hear about what the Royal Commission is doing?
What is a Royal Commission?
State and Federal governments can instigate various types of inquiries. A Royal Commission has the most far reaching powers to investigate, gather evidence and question witnesses. It is commissioned in the name of the Queen by the Governor General of Australia.
A Royal Commission is bound to investigate issues set out in its ‘Terms of Reference’. These are the matters which the Crown wants investigated. At times you may find yourself wondering why the Royal Commission is not investigating a particular area of child abuse, such as family violence or physical abuse. This is because these issues are not included in this Commission’s Terms of Reference.
It is also important to understand that a Royal Commission is not a court. Although it looks a lot like a court, and hearings are usually held in a courtroom with judges, lawyers and barristers, a Royal Commission’s sole function is to investigate, collect information and provide recommendations to governments and institutions.
Royal Commission hearings are much more flexible than courts. They are not bound by rules of evidence. Witnesses can be directly questioned by Commissioners and procedures can be relaxed to accommodate the needs of survivors. However, it is also important to realise that the Royal Commission will not usually comment on whether an allegation is true or false, or if someone is guilty or innocent. That is a function for the courts. In saying that, it is not uncommon for the Royal Commission to pass evidence on to police in order to assist a criminal investigation.
When did the Royal Commission commence and how long will it go for?
Former Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard and former Attorney General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP announced the Royal Commission in November 2012. The Terms of Reference were established and six Commissioners were appointed in January 2013. The first public hearing commenced in September 2013.
The Royal Commission was initially funded to run until the end of 2015, but requested a two-year extension, which was granted by the Federal Government. The Commission’s final report is due on 15 December 2017.
Will there be compensation for victims?
In 2015, the Royal Commission recommended that the Federal Government establish a national redress scheme to provide the survivors of institutional child sex abuse with equitable access to compensation.
The scheme – which is expected to cost more than $4 billion — would be funded by the institutions in which abuse has taken place. The Commission has recommended that the redress scheme be in place no later than July 2017.
The Federal Government is expected to announce its decision on a national redress scheme in early 2016.
In the meantime, child sex abuse survivors are able to pursue compensation claims through a civil litigation process. This is separate to the Royal Commission proceedings.
How can I hear about what the Royal Commission is doing?
Kelso Lawyers have a strong history of assisting victims of crime, going back as far as 1988. We are committed to providing regular and accurate updates about the Royal Commission, both on this website and on our dedicated Facebook page.
Live webcasts of public hearings, updates and resources will also be made available on the government website – wwww.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au.
If you have additional questions regarding the Royal Commission, please contact Kelso Lawyers.