Royal Commission Has Nauru Jurisdiction Legal Advice Says

12 August 2016

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has the power to examine the response of the Australian Government and its contractors to child sexual abuse on Nauru, according to legal advice released today by Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC).

“The Royal Commission can and should investigate the Australian response to child sexual abuse occurring on Nauru,” said ACFID CEO Marc Purcell.

“Australia is responsible for the safety of children we have sent to Nauru. We urge the Commission to extend its inquiry,” said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.

The release of the advice follows the publication this week of over 2000 leaked incident reports from Nauru documenting extensive child sexual abuse, assaults, injuries, self-harm.

“Given the widespread evidence of ongoing harm to children on Nauru, we need to immediately bring people to safety in Australia. Then we need the Commission to make sure this never happens again,” said HRLC Executive Director Hugh de Kretser.

The advice, prepared by barristers Kristen Walker QC and Simona Gory for the HRLC, was provided to the Royal Commission in July last year after the Commission said that “it cannot investigate events that occur within another country”. In a joint letter attached to the advice, ACFID, ACOSS and HRLC urged the Commission to investigate abuse on Nauru. The Commission has not yet acted on the advice.

“The Commission is doing vital work to prevent child abuse in Australia. At the very same time, the Australian Government is warehousing children offshore in conditions that allow child abuse to thrive. We can’t let this continue,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Royal Commission has until 15 December 2017 to report to government.

“The Royal Commission has the power, funding and terms of reference to investigate the abuse on Nauru. It should act,” said Mr Purcell.

“We need an independent body with strong powers to shine a light on what the Australian Government is doing offshore. But first, we need to bring these people to safety here,” said Dr Goldie.

Copies of the legal advice can be downloaded here. The advice concludes that the Royal Commission “has jurisdiction to investigate the response of the Commonwealth and its Australian contractors to allegations of child sex abuse at the [Nauru Regional Processing] Centre”.

Copies of the letter to Royal Commission can be downloaded here.

A schedule of other HRLC investigations can be downloaded here.

Media contacts:

ACFID: Deborah Nesbitt 0451 682008

HRLC: Michelle Bennett 0419 100 519

ACOSS: Anthony Reed 0419 626 155