In 2017 Victoria became the first Australian jurisdiction to initiate substantive reforms to its civil liability laws, to address barriers faced by plaintiffs seeking to hold institutions liable for child abuse. The new law, based on recommendations arising from a Victorian inquiry, establishes a statutory duty of care owed by organisations to take reasonable precautions against abuse of children under their care or supervision. On its face, the Wrongs Amendment (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2017 (Vic) looks like a helpful clarification of this complex area of law. However, when viewed within the context of the work of the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, as well as common law principles – particularly strict liability in the areas of non-delegable duty and vicarious liability, and the High Court decision of Prince Alfred College Inc v ADC – we see that barriers and uncertainties remain.
Laura Griffin and Gemma Briffa, Still Awaiting Clarity: Why Victoria’s New Civil Liability Laws for Organisational Child Abuse Are Less Helpful than They Appear, Universty of New South Wales Law Journal, volume 43 no 2 (June 2020).