COMMUNITY RECOGNITION STATEMENT - Pastor Robert "Bob" Cotton, OAM
Ms JENNY AITCHISON (Maitland) (20:05): I acknowledge the passion and advocacy of Maitland Pastor Robert "Bob" Cotton and congratulate him on his well-deserved receipt of an Order of Australia Medal on 26 January 2020. Bob received his award in recognition of his service to the community, particularly his formidable lobbying in the area of child protection.
Some years ago Bob learnt that no clergy had ever been legally penalised for concealing the alleged child sex offences of another, and that the penalty for concealing a child sex offence drew no harsher penalty than that of common theft. Bob set out to change this. He made the community aware of this flaw in the system and worked with a small group of other passionate people to gather more than 13,000 signatures to a Hunter-based petition calling for harsher penalties.
Ultimately, his groundswell of support helped push the New South Wales Government to change the legislation and in 2018 the maximum penalty for concealing child sex abuse increased from two years in jail to five years. Bob still thinks this penalty is inadequate and this heinous violation of trust demands even stronger sentencing, and he will fight on. I thank Bob for making our community a safer place for our children.