The Australian Priest-Penitent Privilege: Are They Protected?

Patrick van Esch, Linda Jean van Esch


In Australia, the extent of the priest-penitent privilege has received much attention recently due to the appointment of a Royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in 2012. At present, only five (5) Australian jurisdictions provide statutes for some form of privilege to protect certain types of communications between clerics and individuals. The other jurisdictions rely on case law where it is deemed that the priest-penitent privilege does not apply, but this belief is yet to be tested. In an attempt to abide by their religious laws, and depending on the their particular denomination, clerics may be entitled, not obliged to refuse divulging subject matter from religious confessions, even if a confession was made or not.

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