Why being an 'active citizen' is vital for social change

June 30 marked an important milestone for the Child Abuse Royal Commission, one of Australia's largest and most important public inquiries.

The deadline for institutions to sign up to the National Redress Scheme, a key recommendation of the Royal Commission, passed.

June 30 was also the sixth anniversary of the release of the Interim Report, which contained stories from survivors. These stories helped us understand their experiences and provided an early insight into the enormity of the Royal Commission's work.

With the passage of time, and now, with other public inquiries into major social issues, it is easy to lose sight of just how important this Royal Commission was to Australian society and culture.

Over the last eight years I've been researching abuse inquiries in Australia and internationally. Recently, I have turned my attention to the background and history of the Child Abuse Royal Commission.

What's clear is that it only came about because many people spoke out, took action and demanded that something be done.

Social change happens because people fight for it.

A great value of royal commissions is that they shine a light on past wrongs and provide a roadmap for a better future.

But we know that there is a real danger of complacency and forgetting, and of recommendations not being fully implemented.

We also know that there can be problems with the ways that recommendations are implemented, as we've seen with the National Redress Scheme.

To protect children and ensure survivors receive justice, we need to keep this important social issue alive.

We've amplified this message through a new online film series, Citizen Activism: Reclaiming Childhood Rights, in partnership with the Museum of Australian Democracy. It celebrates three tenacious women - Chrissie Foster, Leonie Sheedy and Joanne McCarthy - who fought for justice, stood up to powerful institutions and were instrumental to the creation of the Royal Commission.

These stories reveal the power of ordinary people from suburbs and regional centres having a voice.

They speak to the importance of taking action and they inspire us all to be vocal in our demands for a better society.

It's vital that we find ways to keep talking about child safety. Survivors deserve justice, and eternal vigilance is needed for children to be protected.

  • Dr Katie Wright is an Associate Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University
This story Why being an 'active citizen' is vital for social change first appeared on The Canberra Times.