Public hearings announced for remainder of 2013

16 September 2013

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has announced the matters to be investigated in the three remaining public hearings in 2013. The announcement was made today at the opening of the first public hearing in Sydney.

Counsel Assisting Ms Gail Furness SC, advised that the YMCA, the Anglican Diocese of Grafton and the Towards Healing process by the Catholic Church would be examined in public hearings two, three and four respectively before the end of the year.

Ms Furness said that:

  • The second public hearing in October would examine the responses of YMCA and the Police to allegations made in 2011 that Jonathan Lord sexually abused children in the care of YMCA;

  • The third public hearing in November is to examine the handling of complaints and civil litigation concerning child sexual abuse in the North Coast Children’s Home by the Anglican Diocese of Grafton in 2006 and 2007; while

  • The final public hearing for 2013, in December, would hear evidence about the establishment, operation and review of the Towards Healing process by the Catholic Church. In addition, it will explore how that process works in practice with evidence from a number of people who have participated in it.

Ms Furness also indicated that investigations were already well underway for public hearings in 2014.

“I can say at this stage that next year, an orphanage will be the subject of an early public hearing as will one or more institutions within the Catholic Church and the Salvation Army,” Ms Furness told the hearing.

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The scope and purpose of the public hearing which began today (16 September 2013) is to inquire into:

  • The response of the Scouts Hunter and Coastal Region and Scouts Australia
 to allegations and information concerning the conduct of Steven Larkins in relation to children between 1997 and 2001.

  • The checks carried out by the then Department of Community Services in 1999 – 2001 on the suitability of Steven Larkins to be granted parental responsibility.

  • The carrying out of a Working With Children Check concerning Steven Larkins by the then Department of Community Services in 2003 and the subsequent review of the assessment made by Commission for Children and Young People in 2004.

  • The response of Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services Corporation to information about Steven Larkins’ conduct in 2003 and in 2010 – 2011.

Five institutions are the focus of the hearing into institutional responses to Mr Larkins’ conduct: Scouts, HACS and two State agencies – the NSW Department of Community Services and the NSW Commission for Children and Young People – who had responsibility for checking people who worked with children, together with the NSW Police Force.

This case study is expected to provide important insights into how and why a person about whom there were concerns since the early 1990s:

  • remained in Scouts

  • evaded a State run vetting process designed to expose him,

  • escaped early prosecution,

  • obtained employment in a non-government agency charged with providing a safe place for children, which itself was under the close scrutiny of the State, and

  • was allowed to be the carer of a young person.

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