Changes to act will protect privacy of child abuse victims

THE Federal Government plans to amend the Royal Commissions Act to assist the work of the inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

The amendments will allow one or more of the six royal commissioners to conduct hearings.

As it stands the act only permits hearings to be conducted by all members of a multi-member commission or by a quorum.

A government statement indicated the amendment would assist the commission to distribute its hearing work efficiently, where appropriate.

"The other purpose of the bill is to allow the commissioners to receive information from those affected by child abuse at less formal 'private sessions'," the statement read.

"For many, telling their stories of child sexual abuse will be very traumatic and these private sessions will mean that people affected by this crime can voluntarily participate in the Royal Commission in a less formal setting than a hearing."

People attending a private session would not be required to give evidence under oath, and their information would be used in a way that did not disclose their identity.

The commissioners could also authorise people to support a person attending at a private session.

Topics:  australian government child abuse crime sexual abuse

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