AUSTRALIA has had more than 80 inquiries into child welfare institutions in the past 160 years but they have done little to protect children, a new report says.
Many children died in institutional care but before 2000 there were only three cases where an inquiry led to criminal charges, the report commissioned to assist the current child abuse royal commission revealed. None of the alleged perpetrators ever served time in prison.
More concerned with keeping order in institutions, inquiries often neglected to examine quality of care for children.
Australian Catholic University researcher Professor Shurlee Swain said they were often instigated for political purposes.
Governments have been more concerned with costs than care, making past inquiries more about ‘‘damage control’’ than reform.
When the problem couldn’t be ignored, it served in the government’s interest to investigate. It wasn’t until the 1990s that survivor testimonies became a focus.
The report released on Friday was one of three commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses To Child Abuse, which was extended in September for two years until 2017. Professor Swain said Australian law still hasn’t caught up since the country was a colony.
‘‘The legislative response is still chasing the problem rather than solving it,’’ she said. In another report, Professor Swain described child welfare provisions as a ‘‘patchwork’’ response with poor resources.
‘‘This is not a vote winning issue – unless you have a scandal,’’ Professor Swain said.
‘‘Most of the time people don’t want their money spent on other people’s children.’’ AAP