Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. Latest News and more background
A Safer Future for Children
A Just Response
It is the job of the Royal Commission to uncover where systems have failed to protect children so it can make recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices.
The Royal Commission is about creating a safer future for children. It can look at any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children. This includes where an organisation caring for a child is responsible for the abuse or for not responding appropriately, regardless of where or when the abuse took place.
Latest DevelopmentsJune 4 2015
The Royal Commission’s Report of Case Study no. 9 – the responses of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide and the South Australian Police to allegations of child sexual abuse at St Ann’s Special School, was released today.
The report found that a lack of requirements surrounding police checks on employees enabled a man previously convicted for sexual offences to work as a bus driver at a special school in Adelaide. This man later went on to sexually abuse children with intellectual disabilities.
St Ann's Special School was established in 1975 and catered for 50 to 60 students with intellectual disabilities aged between five and 20 years.
In 1986 Brian Perkins was employed by the school as a bus driver. He took children with intellectual and communication disabilities to and from school each day unsupervised. He also undertook volunteer work and provided respite care for students during his employment.
A public hearing into the matter which was held in Adelaide in March 2014, examined the circumstances surrounding Mr Perkins employment and the monitoring, supervision and oversight of his activities at the school.
In 1986, St Ann’s was not required to conduct a police clearance check as part of its employment process. Neither the school nor the Catholic Education Office had established mechanisms in place for the conduct of these checks. The principal, Mr Claude Hamam, did not obtain a police clearance check before employing Mr Perkins. Such a police check would likely have disclosed that Mr Perkins had three prior convictions for sexual offences.
Commissioners found that the school did not comply with its own policy requiring that volunteers be supervised by a registered teacher, which created further opportunities for Mr Perkins to sexually abuse children in his care.
They also found that the Catholic Education Office did not have a policy on respite care by employees or volunteers.
After complaints were made about Mr Perkins in 1991, police investigated and pornographic photographs of students who attended the school were found at his home. However it was not until 2003 that Mr Perkins was convicted of five sexual offences against three students at St Ann’s and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. The hearing also looked at the response of the principal, the board of St Ann’s and the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, including the Catholic Education Office, to allegations of child sexual abuse.
Commissioners found that the school principal did not inform the board of management, the board of governors or the director of the Catholic Education Office of the sexual allegations regarding Mr Perkins, despite requirements to do so. Commissioners found that Church parties failed to take appropriate action in ensuring the matters were fully reported and investigated and that families concerned were informed and children protected.
However, since 2001, the Catholic Education Office has created a new position of principal consultant who works directly with school principals and provides an initial point of contact for reporting abuse allegations to the Catholic Education Office.
The hearing also examined the nature of the investigation by the South Australia Police (SAPOL) and found a series of failings by SAPOL, combined with poor practices and systems, contributed to years of delay in bringing Mr Perkins to trial.
These included police officers failing to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mr Perkins in 1991 despite having information about his prior convictions, the nature of sexual allegations against him and the risk he posed of further sexual offences against children.
In 1998, it was discovered Mr Perkins was living in Queensland, but police declined to apply to extradite Mr Perkins on the basis of inaccurate information, including the seriousness of the charges.
Commissioners also found police did not inform the broader school community of the sexual allegations against Mr Perkins despite being aware that other former students with intellectual disabilities and limited verbal capacity may have made contact with Mr Perkins.
The hearing also examined the Church's response to allegations of abuse. Commissioners found that the Church did not follow processes set out in Towards Healing, the Catholic Church's principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse against Catholic Church personnel.
They also found the payment of 'gifts' to former students of St Ann’s did not provide an adequate response to some families.
Child sexual abuse at Geelong Grammar School9 June, 2015
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would like anyone who has information regarding child sexual abuse at Geelong Grammar School to contact the Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission is tasked with investigating how institutions, including schools, responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.
If you were sexually abused at Geelong Grammar School, or have any information about sexual abuse of a child at Geelong Grammar School, the Royal Commission would like to hear from you.
The identity of anyone that provides information will be protected and will be kept confidential. At this stage, no public hearing into Geelong Grammar School has been announced. If a hearing is announced at a later date, victims of child sexual abuse will not be compelled to give evidence if they do not wish to.
You can contact the Royal Commission via: Phone: 1800 099 340, Email: email@example.com or Mail: GPO Box 5283, Sydney NSW 2001.
For more information on the Royal Commission please visit our website www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
Royal Commission to hold community forum in Warrnambool
9 June, 2015
Warrnambool residents are invited to learn more about the work of the Royal Commission at a community information forum on Wednesday 17 June.
Commissioner Justice Jennifer Coate will address the forum, provide an overview of the work of the Royal Commission and answer questions from the community.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said the community forum is open to any members of the public who have an interest in the Royal Commission.
“We particularly encourage people who have been affected by child sexual abuse in the care of an institution to attend,” Mr Reed said.
“You will not be required to discuss your personal story at the community forum.
“It is a chance to find out more about the work of the Royal Commission – why it was established, how it works and some of the positive changes that have occurred as a result of its work.
“You can also find out how you can be involved,” he said.
“For example, you might want to have your say on an important policy area by preparing a submission to one of our issues papers. So far we have released eight issues papers on topics such as redress, civil litigation and more recently, experiences of police and prosecution processes.”
In addition to the community forum, private sessions will also be held in the region.
“Over the course of the week, survivors of child sexual abuse living in Warrnambool will have the opportunity to tell the Royal Commission of their experiences in a private session with a Commissioner,” Mr Reed said.
The Royal Commission has already held more than 3,400 private sessions across Australia.
“Private sessions are critical to the Commission’s work, as they allow Commissioners to hear firsthand of the impact of abuse on people and how the response of an institution affects survivors over their lifetime,” Mr Reed said.
“The information provided in private sessions is helping the Royal Commission better understand how child sexual abuse in institutions can be prevented.”
EVENT DETAILSRoyal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Warrnambool Community Forum
This forum is being supported by South Western Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) and the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.
Date: Wednesday 17 June
Time: 5.30 – 7:30pm
Venue: Lighthouse Theatre, 185 Timor St, Warrnambool VIC
Children under the age of 16 who would like to attend should be accompanied by an adult.
For more information about the forum or if you would like to confirm your attendance, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 8284 2412.
Please note: For privacy reasons, the community forum is closed to media.
Breaking the silence about white Australian men’s abuse of childrenMarcus Waters
Lecturer, School of Humanities at Griffith University
I have seen firsthand how child sexual abuse is rife in every part of the Australian community – but only sometimes is that abuse reported in full colour.
It probably won’t surprise you if I say that I’ve had to deal with significant sexual violence and trauma within my Aboriginal family. But that’s also been true within my non-Indigenous family.
So why is it so common to see headlines about “Indigenous sex abuse” – and so rare to see the same language used about white abusers?
A common face of abuse
The Royal Commission on institutionalised child sex abuse is shining a light on dark corners of systematic abuse of Australian kids over many generations. In the vast majority of the terrible cases we’ve heard about, the perpetrators and those who protected them have been seemingly upstanding, often senior, male community leaders.
Old white men, in other words.
Yet how often have you seen their racial background or skin colour highlighted in the reporting of the Royal Commission?
That’s why, rather than write yet another article examining the claims of systematic child sexual abuse within Australia’s Indigenous communities, I’ve chosen to take a closer look at the systematic sexual exploitation that is an undeniable part of white Australian culture.
From sex tourists to abuse at home
In October, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Bachelard broke a story revealing that Indonesia had become the number one destination for Australian child sex tourists – men known locally in Bali as bule, meaning a white foreigner.
This is only part of the hidden underbelly of sexual abuse occurring within white Australian communities, which even when exposed are typically discussed without any racial overtones.
Earlier this year, The Weekend Australian’s Cameron Stewart wrote a revealing feature on Asian slaves to the Australian sex industry, including grim details such as:
All but one of the 20 girls and boys under the age of 15 who are here tonight have been raped, mostly by foreigners, some of them Westerners and possibly Australians.
Stewart also reported that trafficking of women and children – to countries including Australia – “plays a sizable role in the economies of developing countries” across southeast Asia.
As human rights lawyer Anne Gallagher comments:
Cheap labour, cheap sex and cheap goods are woven into the fabric of our economy, our community and our individual lives within Australia.
Stories like these are important. Yet too often, the fact that the abusers in these stories are not just western men, but white western men, goes unremarked.
It certainly gives another insight into Andrew Forrest’s claims of some young Aboriginal girls trading sex acts with miners for less than a dollar. Is it really such a jump to assume that what’s happening in the third world outside of Australia isn’t also happening in third-world Australia?
A culture of sexualisation
The most comprehensive study on sexual activity among Australian teenagers is La Trobe University’s National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health.
The survey shows that even though 15 years is below the legal age of consent, in Grade 10 (where the greater majority of students are 15-years-old) experience of sexual touching within males was about 64% and females about 60%.
Those who have had sexual intercourse with at least one partner totalled 45% (males) and 53% (females). That is more than half of all Australian girls having intercourse before the end of Grade 10.
Many of these girls are under age – so why is there no intervention or scrutiny in these non-Indigenous communities?
Only 6.5% of the boys and 4.2% of these girls had stated they had not had sexual relations of any kind. That – no matter how you look at it – is an epidemic.
The March edition of The Australian Woman’s Weekly included an article by Jordan Baker, Why girls are having sex at 12.
The article says girls as young as 12 are shaving their pubic hair because they don’t want to be teased by boys the same age who are regularly watching porn, and who demand the same hairless bodies they see online.
Race is never mentioned in the article – so it’s safe to assume that we’re talking about trends among non-Indigenous Australians.
And apparently, among non-Indigenous Australian teenagers:
… oral sex doesn’t count as sex … sending nude pictures via text or Facebook is the new flirting.
As a doctor and specialist in youth sexuality, Michael Grose, said:
My generation went behind the shed and had a smoke. It’s been put to me that oral sex at school is like smoking. That’s extreme but I think extremes explain the norm.
And there’s money to be made from sexualising girls aged 8 to 14. The whitefellas even have term for it: “tween fashion”, which promotes sexualised images of girls and women through popular music, teen culture and clothing for the purpose of selling products.
Sex certainly sells – but I agree with the critics who call it a form of “corporate paedophilia”.
International research has shown that people who suffer the worst abuse are often in positions of helplessness or poverty.
The reality is that the majority of my own Aboriginal people who have had to deal with abuse are struggling with these same issues of uncertainty, poverty and alienation that we know compound sexual violence and abuse.
Even as an Aboriginal teenager growing up in this country, I understood that the violence and abuse I was suffering was not the only problem I was facing.
Instead, it was partly the result of the many problems my family and extended community faced. We were taught to care for one another, no matter how bad the hurt – or the harm some in the family did to others.
In contrast, within my white family there was just a deadly silence and denial.
I can’t help but wonder: what would happen if white Australian children, women and men spoke up about the hidden abuse in their families, the way that Aboriginal people increasingly are doing?
I honestly believe if this was to happen, the true statistics of those suffering would send shockwaves through this country.
And I see the silence that I’ve witnessed within my white family mirrored in the way that the predominantly non-Indigenous news media reports on abuse.
This month, a white male Australian, Thomas James Johnson, faced court in South Australia over child porn images dating back a decade.
Johnson was caught when he showed images of girls aged between five and nine to a female masseuse. She reported him to police after he tried to proposition her into having a threesome with him and a 12-year-old girl. Yet Johnson escaped going to jail.
And although he was reported as a “pervert” in the Adelaide Advertiser, Johnson’s race and his skin colour never got a mention.