Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Inquiry into Management of Child Sex Offender Information Report

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (21:04): I rise today to speak on the report on the inquiry into the management of child sex offender information tabled in this place recently. This inquiry was born after a motion agreed upon in the house which was introduced by me on behalf of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. During the inquiry we heard from victim-survivors, previous offenders, academics, local and international justice agencies, advocates for child safety and many, many others. A special thanks goes to Bruce Morcombe from the Daniel Morecombe Foundation, who made a submission and appeared before the inquiry. It is those with the lived experience of how the mismanagement of child sexual offenders can have tragic consequences who are powerful advocates for change. Although the responses were quite mixed in terms of a public sex offender register—we had some in favour, and we had some against—I was quite surprised at the level of interest in a limited disclosure scheme overall. In fact most submissions, including those from the Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Police and the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, were in favour of exploring a limited disclosure scheme. Studies conducted have indicated broad community support also for a limited disclosure scheme. Dr Karen Gelb in her submission spoke of an Australian study which examined the perception of sex offenders that found that around 73 per cent of participants supported access to sex offender registers by parents or carers of children. Interestingly, even those opposed to a public register did go on record as stating that there were situations in which having the knowledge of the whereabouts of convicted child sex offenders would be useful. This point was reiterated in evidence provided by Carol Ronken from the Bravehearts Foundation, who stated, and I quote: … who would not want to know if they had a convicted child sex offender living next door to themselves and their children? Also Dr Michael Davis from the Australian Psychological Society stated that on one occasion in court he said, and I quote: Your Honour, as a citizen I think I would like to know, but as a forensic psychologist I know I am probably better off not knowing … We also found that the usual arguments against the public sex offender register were rebutted with statistics, including that of vigilantism. The Western Australian Community Protection website, since the commencement of the scheme in October 2012, has been accessed many hundreds of thousands of times in just under a decade, and only three people have been charged with a vigilante offence. That is 0.0000075 per cent. Also from the review of the Western Australian model it was identified that the scheme had not resulted in many of the adverse consequences that were previously anticipated, so with all of the scaremongering about giving those caring for children access to information about potential threats to their safety, it seems that this has been unfounded, particularly with the Western Australian disclosure model. Additionally, reviews of current disclosure schemes in operation in the UK and also in Western Australia indicated that the adverse impacts upon sex offenders had been negligible and significantly less than anticipated. We heard about the success of the pilot of the limited disclosure scheme in the UK, which has since been rolled out across England, Wales and Scotland. The scheme has allowed many thousands of applications. Mr Robert Jones from the National Crime Agency in the UK spoke to the inquiry and expanded on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre app designed to keep kids safe on a social network and primarily aimed at safeguarding children from online child sexual exploitation. Mr Jones stated that in 2020–21 there were over 1200 children safeguarded as a result of that reporting tool, a fantastic result. 1200 children kept safe from sexual abuse—just think about that. What was also common through the majority of submissions and hearings was the lack of data available in terms of sexual assault reporting. This is something that I have been calling for and raised in a motion not too long ago in this place, which was voted down by the government and certain usual crossbenchers, something which is a total blight on this chamber. On this note, I was pleased that the committee recommended developing a best practice model for online grooming education in Victorian schools as part of the wider curriculum. There has never been a more important time, with every child since COVID having access to an online platform. With this comes responsibility for every child to know the signs of online predatory behaviour. Having information available to members of the public who are concerned for the safety and wellbeing of children in their care must be prioritised above all else. We in Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party are all about putting children first, above the rights of convicted child sex offenders, and we will not stop advocating for the rights of all sexual abuse victims and all those who are vulnerable to the exploits of these hideous creatures. Sexual abuse against children continues. Sexual predators are out there, grooming those whose innocence has been exploited, and waiting to strike. They are out there, and you are kidding yourselves if you think otherwise. I welcome this report and look forward to seeing the recommendations implemented as soon as possible for the safety of our children.


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