Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse Timeline

The Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse ran for close to 5 years & uncovered the darkest secrets of our churches. Find a complete timeline here.

An overview of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was a mammoth undertaking. Over five long years of investigation and hearings, the Royal Commission uncovered a disturbing pattern of child abuse – men and women in positions of power undermining children and taking advantage of their innocence. 

The Royal Commission completed crucial research to help improve the way we approach claims of child abuse. It took years of ongoing investigations, interviews and media attention for the Royal Commission to even see the light of day – and while the investigation is over, it doesn’t mean their achievements should be swept under the rug.

Below is a timeline outlining the research and public hearings undertaken by the Royal Commission. 

It’s important to remember for each investigation and public hearing, hundreds (if not thousands) of children were physically, emotionally, or sexually abused before this information came to light.

Hundreds of hours and millions of taxpayer dollars were focused on understanding this scourge on society.

Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse Timeline

November 2012: the Royal Commission Launches

  • Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces the Royal Commission after months of media attention around child sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy. 

 

January 2013 

  • Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, elects a six-member commission lead by Justice Peter McClellan.
     
  • The terms of reference are also announced.

 

September 2013

  • Public hearings begin – the convicted paedophile and former Scouts leader Steven Larkins is investigated.

    A former scout leader shares how allegations against Larkins were “common knowledge” among people in senior positions at Scouts New South Wales for several years. Larkins was arrested and convicted in 2012.

 

October 2013 

  • Public hearings into the YMCA paedophile Jonathon Lord begins.

    Former coworker, Erin Turner, shares how Lord was often seen with children sitting on his lap. Ms Turner claims Lord “groomed” her and deliberately befriended staff members as part of his strategy not to get caught.

    Lord abused 12 boys while working at a YMCA child care centre at Caringbah in Sydney’s South.

 

November 2013

 

December 2013 

  • Public hearings into the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing begins.

    Towards Healing was established in 1996 by George Pell to respond to complaints of sexual abuse against the clergy, however child sexual abuse survivors claim the process retraumatises victims.

    Four victims are expected to give evidence relating to allegations against priests and brothers of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, the Diocese of Lismore and the Marist Brothers.

 

January 2014 

 

February 2014 

 

March 2014

  • Inquiry into the Catholic Church’s response to John Ellis begins.

    Mr Ellis was sexually assaulted in his teens by Father Aidan Duggan from about 1974 to 1979. In 2002, Mr Ellis sought reparations through the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program but Duggan had dementia, meaning he could not apologise or recall the abuse.

    Mr Ellis was supposed to be given an assessor to help with the process, but was not. Mr Ellis then made a complaint to the Towards Healing program. Cardinal George Pell recognised this was a “substantial failing”. 

  • Inquiry into Adelaide’s Catholic Archdiocese & the South Australian Police’s response to sexual abuse at St Ann’s Special School begins.

    It was found the school, the diocese and the police failed the intellectually disabled children at the school. Many of the girls were being sexually abused by the school’s bus driver, Brian Perkins.

    Perkins was not supervised while driving the girls to and from the school. This goes against the school’s safety policy. The police also found pornographic images of the girls in Perkins home in 1991, but he wasn’t charged until 2003.

     

  • Hearing into the Salvation Army Eastern Territory and their handling of child sexual abuse claims between 1993 and 2014 begins.

    The investigation covered Gill Memorial Home in Goulburn (NSW), Bexley Boys’ Home (NSW), Riverview Training Farm (QLD), and Alkira Salvation Army Home for Boys (QLD), as well as boys and girls in other factions of the Salvation Army.

 

April 2014 

  • Findings of Steven Larkins hearing were handed down.

    The Royal Commission investigated Scouts Australia, Hunter Aboriginal Services and the Department of Community Services regarding allegations concerning Steven Larkins, the former CEO of Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services, between 1997 and 2001.

    It was found Larkins should have been assessed for child care suitability via  Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Service. However, the laws at the time did not require Larkins to be assessed for foster care.

     

  • The first public and private round tables were held. These focused on various topics like out-of-home care, working with children checks and the criminal justice system.

     
  • A national public awareness campaign was launched calling for child sexual abuse survivors to share their stories.

     

  • Hearing into the experience of male residents in the WA Christian Brothers’ residences begins.

    The commission heard evidence from 11 men who were residents at the institutions between 1947 and 1968. Within the first hour, survivors revealed instances of anal rape and brutal beatings.

 

May 2014

  • Public hearing begins in Perth investigating abuse at a private school.

    The commission examined repeated allegations of inappropriate behaviour and touching by one of the teachers at the school between 1999 and 2005. The teacher favoured the male student in 1999 and even became friends with the boy’s parents before abusing him in 2000.

    The survivor, known as WP, said others also suffered abuse because the school did nothing to address the issue.

     

  • Reports surface indicating the government has redirected funds from the Royal Commission to the Insulation Batts Scheme.

 

June 2014

  • Philip Reed replaces Janette Dines as CEO.

     

  • Public hearing into the Marist Brothers’ handling of complaints about brothers teaching in ACT, NSW and QLD schools begins.

    The hearing looked into abuse perpetrated by Brother John Chute (otherwise known as Brother Kostka) and former Brother Gregory Sutton from the 1960s to the late 1980s in various schools.

    Chute had allegations against him from 48 different victims. In 2008, Chute was charged with 19 counts of child abuse against six former students in the ACT and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

    Sutton had allegations against him from 21 individuals. He was convicted in 1996 for 67 counts of sexual offences against 15 different children.

     

  • Inquiry into the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong and handling of child sexual abuse allegations against John Gerard Nestor.

    Father Nestor was defrocked and excommunicated by Benedict XVI in 2008. The allegations were cleared against Nestor and he later returned to the church but was kicked out again due to further allegations of abuse.

     

  • The Interim report handed to the federal government. Volume one includes: why we are here, what we have done, what we are learning and what we need to do next.

    Volume two includes the personal stories of 150 people who shared their experiences with abuse in private sessions or provided a written account. De-identified poetry from survivors was also shared.

 

September 2014 

  • The Federal Government extends the Royal Commission until December 2017.

 

January 2015 

  • The first consultation paper was released on redress and civil litigation. This exposed current failings and the principles of achieving redress for survivors of abuse.

 

February 2015 

  • Hearings into the response of Knox Grammar School and the Uniting Church in Australia to complaints of child sexual abuse begins.

    The Commission examined the response of the Uniting Church in Australia between 1970 and 2012 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct and abuse perpetrated by a number of teachers towards students at Knox Grammar School.

 

March 2015

 

April 2015 

 

May 2015 

  • Public hearing into the policies and procedures of health care providers responding to allegations of child sexual abuse begins.
  • Public hearing into the response of the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat & the Victorian Police to allegations of child sexual abuse begins.

 

July 2015 

  • Hearings into Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible Tract Society begins.

    The Commission reviewed current policies and procedures of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd in relation to child protection and child-safe standards. They also reviewed factors which may have lead to children being sexually abused.

 

August 2015 

  • Hearings into State-run youth training and reception centres begins.

    The Commission heard from 13 former child residents at Turana Youth Training Centre, Winlaton Youth Training Centre and Baltara Reception Centre between the 1960s and early 1990s.

    Survivors spoke about the abuse they experienced at the hands of staff members, social workers and other residents. Some said the abuse “ruined their lives” and survivors still suffer from depression, alcohol and drug abuse, while also struggling to maintain relationships.

     

  • The Royal Commission hears from retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson regarding the Catholic Church’s’ response to child sexual abuse before the Towards Healing program.

     

  • The Royal Commission hands down their recommendations on Working With Children Checks. The Commission recommends all states and territories amend their laws to meet the Commission’s standards within 12 months.

 

 September 2015 

  • Public hearing into the Geelong Grammar School begins.

    The Commission received evidence from 13 former students who were abused by staff at the school from 1956 to 1989. Two survivors and their mothers reported the sexual abuse at the time it was occurring, but the school made no effort to report the abuse.

    Survivors described Geelong Grammar School as “authoritarian, disciplined and devoid of pastoral care”.

  • The Royal Commission releases the final redress and civil litigation recommendation report. The report provides recommendations around effective redress for survivors through the establishment, funding and operation of a single national redress scheme and the provision of a direct personal response to survivors by institutions.

 

October 2015

  • The Royal Commission hears from former residents at institutions run by The Salvation Army (Southern Territory).

    The Commission heard allegations of child sexual abuse in boy’s homes in Eden Park (SA), Box Hill and Bayswater (Victoria) and Nedlands (WA). The Salvation Army ran 55 separate children’s homes between 1894 and 1998. Around 15,000 to 17,000 passed through the schools.

    Before 1990, The Salvation Army had no policies or procedures to respond to complaints of sexual abuse. Children who reported abuse were physically beaten.

 

November 2015 

  • Public hearings into the response of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse continue. 

 

January 2016 

 

March 2016 

  • Public hearing into the experience of students training at RG Dance Pty Ltd and Institute of Music begins.

    Grant Davies, dance teacher and co-founder of RG Dance, was charged with 63 child sexual offences in 2013 when his wife found child pornography on his laptop and alerted police.

    Davies’ committed various acts of child sexual abuse committed between 2001 and 2013. His victims were aged between nine and 14. Davies used his position to groom and then abuse his underage students.

 

April 2016 

 

June 2016 

 

July 2016 

  • Public hearing into the responses of disability service providers to claims of child sexual abuse begins.

    The Commission reviewed responses to allegations of child sexual abuse via Mater Dei School in Camden NSW, The Disability Trust, Interchange Shoalhaven and FSG Australia.

     

  • The Royal Commission releases their research report into creating child-safe organisations and institutions.

    The report looks into why child sexual abuse occurs in institutions; how child sexual abuse in institutions can be prevented; how child sexual abuse can be better identified; what is best practice for institutional responses to child abuse; what is best practice for government and statutory authorities responding to child sexual abuse; what treatment and support is needed for victims/survivors and their families; history of particular institutions of interest and finally, how the commission can make a lasting positive impact on the process.

 

August 2016 

  • Public hearing into the experiences of child sexual abuse survivors who were abused by clergy and lay people of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle begins.

    The Commission claimed Newcastle Diocese Bishops Alfred Holland and Roger Herft showed a lack of leadership and alleged perpetrators were not reported or called to account.

    Their failure to act allowed paedophiles Father Peter Rushton and Father James Brown to continue offending.

  • Public hearing into the response of Newcastle-Maitland Catholic Church authorities to allegations of child sexual abuse begins.

    The Commission investigated the response of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese to allegations of child sexual abuse made against Father Vincent Ryan.

    The Commission also investigated the response of the Marist Brothers to allegations of child sexual abuse made against Francis Cable (Brother Romuald) and Thomas Butler (Brother Patrick).

 

 September 2016 

  • Public hearing into the Catholic Church authorities response of child sexual abuse allegations against John Joseph Farrell begins.

    Commissioners recommended the report not be released to the public so their work will not prejudice current or future criminal or civil proceedings.

    It is expected the report will be made available to the public at a later date.

 

October 2016 

  • Public hearing into the response by schools to allegations of harmful sexual behaviour by students begins.

 

December 2016

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Scouts, YMCA and The Salvation Army in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

 

February 2017 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Catholic Church Authorities in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

 

March 2017 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Commonwealth, State & Territory governments in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of the Anglican Church Authorities in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

  • Public hearing into the current policies & procedures of Uniting Church in Australia in relation to child protection and safety standards, with a focus on responding to claims of child sexual abuse begins. 

  • Public hearing into the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in Australia begins.

    The Commission reviews the nature of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts in Australia and how community understanding of abuse has changed, as well as:

    – The extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts historically and in contemporary Australia


    – Challenges to identification and prevention


    – Contributing factors to risk


    – Factors that make children vulnerable to sexual abuse


    – Factors that may contribute to people sexually abusing children in institution


    – Institution-specific factors that may contribute to child sexual abuse


    – Impact of child sexual abuse and institutional responses on survivors, both in childhood and throughout their adult lives, their families and supporters, and the wider community. 

 

May 2017 

  • The federal government commits $33.4 million for the proposed redress scheme. The National Redress Scheme is designed to respond to recommendations from the Royal Commission and provide the following for survivors of abuse:


    – A monetary payment of up to $150,000


    – Access to counselling and psychological services under the scheme or a payment to access counselling and psychological services of up to $5,000 (depending on location)

    – A direct personal response from the responsible institution(s) (if requested by the survivor).

 

August 2017 

 

October 2017 

  • The Australian Federal Government tables a bill which proposes payments of up to $150K for abuse victims. Victims who have been imprisoned are an exception.

 

December 2017 

  • The Royal Commission had their final sitting and presents a report to the Governor-General. There were 409 recommendations made.

     

  • A commemorative book of messages from child abuse victims to Australia is handed to the National Library of Australia in the final sitting of the Royal Commission.

     

  • No states, territories or institutions signed up to the redress scheme in 2017.

 

Where are we now?

The National Redress Scheme has been in place for more than 12 months – however, very little progress has been made to help survivors of child sexual and physical abuse. 

As of May 2020:

  • The Scheme received 7,009 applications

     

  • 2,250 Redress payments had been made

     

  • A further 574 offers have been made which haven’t been accepted

     

  • The average redress payment amount is around $81,796 (not even close to the maximum $150,000)

     

  • Many people are ineligible to receive more than $40,000.

All states and territories as well as the Commonwealth have joined the National Redress Scheme. However, hundreds of institutions have failed to join the Scheme, including the Jehovah’s Witness and various Diocese of the Anglican Church.

Institutions have until 30 June 2020 to join the Scheme.

Get the justice you deserve with Kelso Lawyers. We want to hear your story. Call (02) 4907 4200 or complete the online form before you accept payment from the National Redress Scheme.

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