New laws have passed the Queensland parliament overnight, which will force priests to report child sexual assault or face jail time.
The legislation, which was supported by the opposition, means religious institutions won’t be protected by the ‘seal of confession’ as a defence or excuse not to report matters.
It comes as a result of the child sexual abuse royal commission, which recommended the laws.
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Members of the clergy could face up to three years in jail if they’re found to have concealed child sexual abuse matters.
The legislation was met with some heavy criticism from the church, with some priests prepared to go to jail before breaking the confessional seal.
Maurice Blackburn head of Abuse Law, Michelle James, has welcomed the new legislation.
“This is extremely important legislation for the protection of children and the Queensland Government are to be commended for joining other states in acting on this.
“Plenty of professions, including doctors and health professionals, have long had obligations to report instances of abuse.
“Sadly however the Catholic Church and others have continued to stubbornly resist this important reform.
“There is absolutely no excuse for Catholic Church clergy to not be held to the same standards in ensuring the safety of children is made a priority.
“The position of the Catholic Church resisting such changes is untenable – no institution should be above the law.
“We also know from the Royal Commission that failure to report abuse and to act on complaints was a key factor in allowing systemic abuse to occur, sometimes for decades.
“The safety of children must come first,” Ms James said.