According to a press release issued by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse it will be closing registrations for private sessions on 30 September 2016.
Private sessions allow survivors of child sexual abuse in an institution to share their story directly with a Commissioner in a private setting.
The Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM, Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said the strong demand from survivors to share their story has resulted in a queue of people waiting to meet with a Commissioner.
“The rate at which people come to the Commission seeking a private session shows no present sign of diminishing. It has averaged 37 per week over the past 12 months,” Justice McClellan said.
“If the present demand for private sessions continues throughout the life of the Commission, unless we close off applications well before we complete our final report, many people who may seek a private session will be disappointed.”
“In our view it would be intolerable for a survivor to be accepted for a private session only to find we could not meet with them,” he said.
The first private session was held on Tuesday 7 May 2013 in Parramatta, NSW, and this month, the Royal Commission completed its 5,000th private session in Queensland. There are more than 1,500 people currently waiting for a private session.
“The Commissioners recognise that for individuals who have been traumatised by sexual abuse giving an account of their experiences and telling their story to a Commissioner is, for many survivors, an important part of their personal journey,” Justice McClellan said.
“The information which the Commission has obtained from survivors has proved to be critical in informing our investigations and will provide a secure foundation for many of our final recommendations,” he said.
The closing date applies only to new applications for a private session. People who have already been accepted for a private session or who apply before 30 September will have an opportunity to meet with a Commissioner. The Royal Commission will still accept written accounts after 30 September.
“There can be no exceptions for any application received after that date. I know this will mean that some people will be disappointed. For that the Commissioners are sorry,” Justice McClellan said.
Private sessions are unique to this Royal Commission. The Commonwealth Parliament amended the Royal Commissions Act 1902 so that Commissioners could hear from survivors in private and ‘bear witness’ to their stories of abuse.
Private session accounts are being written up and de-identified, and will be presented as part of the Royal Commission’s Final Report.
Private sessions are held in all capital cities and have also been held in regional areas including Cairns, Coolangatta, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton, Townsville, Woorabinda, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Penrith, Launceston, Kimberley, Bunbury, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Warrnambool.
Private sessions also have been held for inmates in 26 correctional centres in NSW, ACT and Victoria.