Professor Ben Mathews’s research on the law relating to child abuse and neglect has influenced legislative reform and policy development across Australia and internationally, including reforms to mandatory reporting laws and laws relating to civil claims for injury through child sexual abuse.
Mandatory reporting of suspected abuse
Each year, thousands of Australian children are sexually abused, causing lifelong psychological and social cost, and vast socioeconomic costs. Professor Mathews’s work was a key driver behind the enactment of the Child Protection (Mandatory Reporting—Mason’s Law) Amendment Bill 2016, which requires early childhood educators and carers to report suspected cases of child physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Reform of statute of limitations for civil claims
Until recently, survivors of child abuse had only three years after turning 18 in which to make a claim. The time limit, in addition to psychological injuries, made it almost impossible for survivors to bring civil claims. Professor Mathews recognised the need for change, and has worked systematically since 2003 to bring about reform across Australia.
Professor Mathews’s research was cited extensively by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2015, which recommended that the time limits for civil claims be removed. The time limit has now been abolished in seven states and territories, opening up the possibility for survivors to make civil claims.
A voice for the vulnerable
Find out more about Professor Mathews’s work in our research impact story, A voice for the vulnerable.