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Tasmania - Event

Inquiry into children in institutional care (2003 - 2004)


The Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care was referred to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee on 4 March 2003. The Committee released its first report, Forgotten Australians: a report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children, on 30 August 2004. A second report, Protecting vulnerable children: a national challenge, was released on 17 March 2005. The Australian Government's response to the Inquiry was tabled in the Senate on 10 November 2005.


This inquiry was directed primarily to those children affected by institutional or foster care but not covered by the 2001 report, Lost innocents: righting the record, inquiring into child migrants, and the 1997 report, Bringing them home: national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

Under the terms of reference, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee was to inquire into the following matters:

(a) in relation to any government or non-government institutions, and fostering practices, established or licensed under relevant legislation to provide care and/or education for children:

(i) whether any unsafe, improper or unlawful care or treatment of children occurred in these institutions or places,

(ii) whether any serious breach of any relevant statutory obligation occurred at any time when children were in care or under protection, and

(iii) an estimate of the scale of any unsafe, improper or unlawful care or treatment of children in such institutions or places.

(b) the extent and impact of the long-term social and economic consequences of child abuse and neglect on individuals, families and Australian society as a whole, and the adequacy of existing remedies and support mechanisms.

(c) the nature and cause of major changes to professional practices employed in the administration and delivery of care compared with past practice.

(d) whether there is a need for a formal acknowledgement by Australian governments of the human anguish arising from any abuse and neglect suffered by children while in care.

(e) in cases where unsafe, improper or unlawful care or treatment of children has occurred, what measures of reparation are required.

(f) whether statutory or administrative limitations or barriers adversely affect those who wish to pursue claims against perpetrators of abuse previously involved in the care of children.

(g) the need for public, social and legal policy to be reviewed to ensure an effective and responsive framework to deal with child abuse matters in relation to:

(i) any systemic factors contributing to the occurrences of abuse and/or neglect,

(ii) any failure to detect or prevent these occurrences in government and non-government institutions and fostering practices, and

(iii) any necessary changes required in current policies, practices and reporting mechanisms.

Related Glossary Terms

Related Organisations


Newspaper Articles

  • 'Transcript of the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP apology to Forgotten Australians, Great Hall, Parliament House', The Australian, 16 November 2009. Details


Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Senate Community Affairs References Committee Secretariat, Parliament of Australia, Forgotten Australians: A report on Australians who experienced institutional or out-of-home care as children, Commonwealth of Australia, 2004, 2004. Also available at

Prepared by: Cate O'Neill