Legislative Council Wednesday 29 November 2017
Ms FORREST (Murchison ) - Mr President, I support the legislation. This is an important step and needed. Great harm has been caused to people over the years, particularly in terms of institutionalised sexual abuse of children, as the royal commission found. It must have been harrowing for those people in the process - those hearing the evidence repeatedly time and time again, the atrocities that happened, and also the re-traumatisation of people who told their stories. It takes a great degree of bravery to do that.
Ms Rattray - I cannot imagine.
Ms FORREST - No. The re-traumatisation is significant. I also appreciated the briefing. I appreciate Emma Gunn and her knowledge about the overall legislative framework, particularly these changes. I thank the honourable Leader for that briefing and her input.
Mrs Hiscutt - We appreciate it.
Members - Hear, hear.
Ms FORREST - She made it clear that the actual issues around the three-criteria test that have to be met does not change. The date of discoverability has been amended over that time since 2005.
Now we are looking to completely remove the limitation for serious sexual assaults of a minor. That is terribly important because children often do not appreciate until much later in their adult years even the impact of the abuse, and it can be something much later in life that triggers it.
As a midwife I know that many women who have been abused sexually, physically and emotionally in their childhood or even in their early adult years sometimes find themselves in labour experiencing a whole manner of sensations that a woman does during labour, particularly during the second stage, and become absolutely terrified at that point. The flashbacks are dreadful. It might not be during the labour; it could be the next day that something can be triggered. It is devastating and very difficult for a midwife to help those women. It is entirely appropriate. In the briefing, I raised that I would like the honourable Leader to address this factor.
I and a couple of other honourable members also received representation from a person who was subject to grooming at a school during his time there in the 1970s. I am not going to read the correspondence provided because at some stage it will be subject to litigation or other action, but I want to talk in broad terms about what happened. It is his view, or he has been led to believe, that these amendments will not address his particular circumstance, and there may well be others in this circumstance.
If there is a chance that there is an opportunity but if not, he is asking whether the Government now or later would consider an amendment to try to deal with this situation. Basically, this gentleman said he came to the attention of the school principal when he was in grades 9 and 10, and he was often summoned to the principal's office on the guise of discussing his attitude to work or various other things. He said these sessions were always conducted alone - just he and the male principal - and he said that while such conduct may be inappropriate, it was not something he wanted to reflect on for too long because, in his view, it was a commonplace thing. It happened repeatedly and he felt, looking back, that a lot of grooming went on in that process.
It was not until he had left this school that the by then former principal invited him to a restaurant for a meal. Subsequent to the meal, he was invited to his shack; by this stage he was 20 years of age or thereabouts. He relates an incident that occurred of unsolicited personal contact of quite an inappropriate nature, and this behaviour was not a short instance. It was sustained and lasted for a period of around 30 minutes. It was after looking back later in his life that he believed it did have a serious impact on him.
Because he was an adult when the actual molestation occurred, he appears to fall outside of this, but one could allege that he was groomed by this principal over a period of his time at the school, and then soon after leaving the school, only within a matter of a couple of years, he was then targeted, invited - whatever the words are - to have one-to-one meetings with him and subsequently was physically abused.
It is a very valid point. We need to be sure there are no other people who perhaps are excluded with the very good intention of this bill. Maybe it is covered in this. If it is not, I encourage the Government to look at it and see whether there are circumstances. I am sure he is not the only one. We heard of these kinds of circumstances during the royal commission. Whether the grooming can be linked to the actual serious impact on the person or not is perhaps a matter for courts to decide, but it is something that should be looked at because we are trying to do the best for people who have been damaged and harmed in this way. It is not okay. If a small group of people are falling through the gaps in this legislation, we owe it to them to address that.
I thank the Government for bringing this legislation forward to seek to redress the clearly - in my mind - obvious things raised during the royal commission. I am sure many people will be able to seek some redress through this.
I back up the comments made by the member for McIntyre about the redress program. Is it intended that it will be a nationwide program? Is it intended the states will have their own state based programs? How will they be funded? That is an important part of the healing. I assisted a constituent to access compensation for being abused in state care, even a forced adoption situation. Money never ever makes the problem go away, but it helps them to deal with ongoing costs associated with counselling and other things.
The other point I wanted to raise was a matter I also raised in the briefing, and I would like the Leader to comment on it in her response. Would it be preferable to have some incorporated changes made, as other jurisdictions have, to enable the setting aside of an agreement where, in circumstances of unfairness, and to enable the reopening of a previously defeated matter, the defeat was due to the expiration of the limitation period prior to the commencement of the change?
I believe there are some jurisdictions which have gone down that path and provided for that. That, again, would seem unfair when the reason it did not proceed was that the statute of limitations took effect. I guess it comes back a bit to the retrospectivity of the legislation, in some respects. Once it has been dealt with, then effectively it is closed. Some jurisdictions have reopened that door where it was purely because the statute of limitations saw that it was not able to be progressed.
With those points, I support the legislation. It is an important step. I hope it provides some healing and closure for some people who have unfortunately found themselves as victims of some terrible practices.
I do not know that they have completely stopped in all quarters, from what we hear, but I hope we can address the ones that have and try to prevent any in the future.