Limitation of actions amendment (child abuse) bill 2015

EXTRACT FROM PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

Second reading

Ms RYALL (Ringwood) — It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on a bill that is about better ensuring that children can in the future undertake civil action without that being consequential on a limitation of time. It is important to understand that child abuse causes victims a lifetime of pain and tragedy, a lifetime in which every aspect of their relationships and what they do in life is affected. The removal of that limitation means that when a person is ready and able to speak up they can proceed with a civil case, without that being dependent on time. The Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill 2015 is vitally important. As such, the coalition supports the bill.

I appreciate the bipartisan focus and the bipartisan participation in the production of an outstanding report, which shines a light on the dark spaces that have existed for so long. In doing so, the committee members did a significant amount of work over a length of time to enable those who had suffered at the hands of child abusers to be heard, believed and taken seriously, and to know that while what they were doing was very painful, it meant that others might not have to go through similar circumstances and that preventive action would be put in place to better protect our children.

I am pleased that in producing the report of the inquiry, which was initiated by Ted Baillieu, a former Premier and member for Hawthorn, Georgie Crozier and her committee enabled a raft of recommendations to come through. Whilst the coalition government commenced the inquiry and the implementation of the recommendations, the current government is continuing to ensure the implementation of those recommendations. It is through our bipartisan joint committee work that some of the best work and outcomes of this Parliament occur. That is something to be proud of.

In October 2014 an exposure draft for a bill to remove limitation periods for victims of criminal child abuse — that is, to implement recommendation 26.3 of the Betrayal of Trust report — was released for public comment. If you look at the raft of child abuse protection initiatives the former coalition government put in place, you see it is substantial. Between 2010 and 2014 there was the Cummins inquiry; the directions paper Victoria’s Vulnerable Children — Our Shared Responsibility and the strategy that subsequently came out of that; the investment of more than $900 million in programs and reforms to better protect children; the establishment of the Commission for Children and Young People; the five‑year plan for out‑of‑home care; an increase in police resources; the expansion of multidisciplinary centres in metropolitan and regional Victoria with co‑location; and extra support for schools and educational organisations to respond to child abuse.

Our children are precious and vulnerable. They cannot protect themselves; they need protection. When they cannot get protection from the people who are caring for them, we as legislators need to make sure that we step in and create the legislation to make sure that they are protected, because the consequences of abuse are torment, pain and scars that nothing can erase. As a parent I know the great love and sense of responsibility I had for my daughter in her growing years. Parents need to know and ensure that when they entrust their children to others in the confidence that they will care for them — whether it be at school, in another organisation or in care — they are indeed safe and protected.

Abuse is not just sexual abuse. There can also be psychological or physical abuse, and it is something that impacts on an individual, particularly a child. It is imprinted on their mind forever and affects their ability to function, to form relationships, to trust, to love, to feel whole and real and not guilty. We cannot take away what has happened in the past but we can do something about the future. We owe it to the people who came forward at the inquiry, whether through written submissions or personal representations, to say thank you and commend them for their bravery and the impact they have had on the better protection of children and the prevention of child abuse in the future.

The horrific and tragic circumstances that surround child abuse go on forever. There is no limitation on that. The grief, pain and suffering of those children has no limitation, so why should there be a limitation on the time frame during which they can bring a civil action?

I very much appreciate the bipartisan support for the government’s continued implementation of these recommendations. As difficult as it has been for so many, I know that the work produced this report and that the further recommendations that will be implemented will only serve to better secure and protect our children and ensure that they are safe and that their vulnerability is protected. I commend the bill to the house.