Royal Commission public hearing

Royal Commission hearing into Bethcar Children's Home

The Royal Commission heard oral submissions on Thursday 18 December 2014 in Sydney.

Women’s Legal Service NSW represented 13 Indigenous women who suffered sexual abuse while in care at the Bethcar Children’s Home.

We acted for the women in civil proceedings against the State of NSW. The case ran for over 5 years and settled, with the survivors receiving compensation and an apology.

The case was the subject of a public hearing by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In October and November 2014 the Royal Commission heard evidence for more than two weeks from some of the Aboriginal women involved, WLS Principal Solicitor Janet Loughman, as well as lawyers for the NSW government and the head of the Department of Family and Community Services.

The Royal Commission has shone a light on the enormous barriers to bringing this kind of litigation and the heavy – and often unnecessary – emotional burden these courageous Aboriginal women have endured.

At a time when the certainty of funding for our Indigenous Women’s Legal Program is uncertain beyond the 30 June 2016, this matter highlights the vital role of this service.

During the course of the hearing the NSW Government announced changes to the way it will deal with matters of child sexual abuse in the future in response to the Royal Commission. These changes include:

  • generally no longer raising time limits as a defence in such proceedings,
  • recognising the trauma experienced by victims of child sexual abuse, and
  • seeking to finalise the matter as quickly as possible.

Royal Commission Report: The Report of Case Study 19 was published in December 2015.

Media release: Women’s Legal Service NSW welcomes the release of the report of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault inquiry into the Bethcar Children’s Home (16 December 2015)

More information about the public hearing including transcripts, statements and the report are available on the Royal Commission website.

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