The federal government has announced $146 million in funding for the first phase of a new national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse.
The development and implementation of such a strategy was recommended by the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse in 2017.
The plan is expected to be released in September, and will be jointly delivered by the federal, state and territory governments.
While the new funding includes nearly $40 million for the Australian Federal Police, assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet Ben Morton noted that the strategy would go ‘beyond law enforcement’ by aiming to prevent abuse before it occurs, support victims and survivors, and reduce stigma.
“It is a 10 year, whole-of-nation framework to establish a coordinated and consistent approach to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in Australia,” he said.
Key initiatives that will be delivered through the funding include:
- $59.9 million for AFP initiatives that combat child sexual abuse.
- $13.9 million to bolster the capabilities of AUSTRAC, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and the Department of Home Affairs to help agencies disrupt the cash flow behind child sexual abuse, prevent and disrupt live-streamed child sexual abuse, intercept material and offenders at the border, and improve the ability to identify offenders within the community.
- $7.8 million for Home Affairs to work with Indo-Pacific partners on regional policy and legislative responses to child sexual abuse.
- $2.95 million to help Home Affairs build relationships with the digital industry to drive a coordinated and collaborative charge against offenders’ exploitation of online platforms to commit child sexual abuse related crimes.
- $24.1 million to strengthen commonwealth capacity to prosecute perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
$16.8 million for the Attorney-General’s Department to improve legal assistance concerning child sexual abuse.
$10.9 million for the National Indigenous Australians Agency to co-design place-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches to support survivors of child sexual abuse.
$4.7 million for Sport Integrity Australia to enhance child safeguarding in sport.
$3 million to the eSafety Commissioner to deliver targeted online education programs to support parents and families to prevent online harms to children.
$5 million to expand the National Office for Child Safety’s national leadership role to deliver the strategy.
Home affairs minister Karen Andrews noted that charges relating to child sexual abuse across the country increased from 372 in 2018/19, to 2,753 in 2020/21.
“We know this is evidence of our law enforcement efforts working — but any sexual crime against a child is one too many, and we must make sure we bring these numbers down in the long term,” she said.
The strategy will complement other national policy frameworks, such as the current and future National Plans to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, and Closing the Gap, the government said.