Tuesday, November 2, 2010
© The Cairns Post
PRIESTS should be forced by law to report every allegation of child abuse to authorities and end the cycle of trauma suffered by young victims and adult survivors of clergy sex abuse.
Child safety advocates and victim support groups yesterday called on the State Government to immediately upgrade mandatory reporting laws to include ministers of religion.
In Queensland, the only professions mandated to report suspected abuse to authorities are doctors, nurses, Department of Communities officers and employees of licensed residential care services.
School principals and teachers are required to report suspected abuse in line with Education Queensland policy, but they are not legally mandated to do so.
South Australia is the only state in Australia to include ministers of religion in its mandatory reporting legislation, with an exemption for disclosures made in the confessional.
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The call for changes to the state’s mandatory reporting law follows revelations that a Cairns man has launched a civil suit against the Catholic Church for abuse inflicted by Father Joseph Sultana at St Joseph’s School at Atherton between 1979 and 1982.
The man, now 38, told Cairns Bishop James Foley about the abuse in a meeting in November last year, but Bishop Foley did not report the matter to police.
Support group Adults Surviving Child Abuse spokeswoman Cathy Kezelman said the response by Bishop James Foley, published in full in The Cairns Post yesterday, was inadequate, insensitive and out of step with community expectations.
"Sadly, this story in The Cairns Post is reminiscent of so many stories that we’ve seen globally of the church not responding appropriately at the time or later when an adult is finally ready to confront the abuse," Dr Kezelman said.
"Generally, the victim is in fact being revictimised by the church closing ranks and treating it like it’s secret church business.
"The victim is the last one the church responds to with compassion.
"These are criminal acts and perpetrators need to be brought to justice.
"Victims need to be acknowledged, validated, heard and listened to and given appropriate and independent care outside of Catholic Church counselling services.
"We absolutely support priests being mandatory reporters in Queensland."