On his first day volunteering with the New South Wales Army Cadets in the 2000s, Blair was asked to keep an eye on one of his seniors, Greg Macleay, particularly if he was around children. When Blair asked why, he was told by Captain Julie Day that there’d been written complaints about Macleay inappropriately touching children and taking photographs of underage girls.
Blair was amazed that no action had been taken against Macleay in spite of there being at least seven complaints. Day said that she’d been reporting Macleay to her superiors for two years but they always replied that nothing could be done because the complaints were ‘their word versus his word’.
After ringing a child protection line, Blair went back to Day with information on how to take the matter further. Together with a colleague, Day then made a report to child protective services and was told it would be passed on to police.
Over following weeks Blair became increasingly concerned that action still hadn’t been taken and that Macleay continued to have close contact with cadets whose ages ranged from 12 to 20. Blair rang child protective services again and was told investigations were in train.
More weeks passed and with no apparent progress being made, Blair went to the local police station and made his own report about Macleay. ‘That same day I had between six and 10 phone calls from different police all over Sydney saying the same thing: “I have been given this job, I’m taking care of it. Tell me what’s happened”.’
Eventually one police officer was assigned the case and began investigating. Macleay was stood down from the unit. Blair was astonished that in the interim Macleay had been promoted in rank, a process overseen by the superiors to whom the offences were first reported.
In addition to speaking with NSW Police, Blair came into contact with staff from other community and child-focused organisations of which Macleay had previously been a member. It transpired that he’d been suspended or sacked from at least five agencies for offences ranging from fraud to theft to child grooming. He’d been convicted on several matters and was on bail from charges arising in another state.
Blair told the Commissioner he remained concerned about reporting and monitoring systems within the army cadets and the disconnect in chains of command between cadets and the regular army. In response to complaints about Macleay, the regular army hierarchy had sent the same people to investigate who’d previously said the complaints were hearsay. ‘They sent out their crew of bullies into our unit every single week that did nothing but basically … provide disruption.’
Blair noted that background checks and child protection measures in army cadets were poorly managed. ‘There’s a form you need to sign once a year which is the behaviour policy, which covers some of this stuff, but it’s basically you read it in a minute and you sign it, and you know it’s an hour lecture once a year which is more a refresher, but it’s not into the nitty-gritty and it’s not at a management level in terms of duty of care and different child protection issues.’
At the time of speaking to the Royal Commission, Blair said NSW Police and army investigations were continuing. A police officer had told him that of seven offences reported, it was likely only two would make it to court.
‘I’m happy with what I know of where everything is at the moment’, Blair said. ‘But I’m not satisfied about the breakdown of communication from [the regular army] to the cadets to our unit and I strongly feel that the result of this is not going to resolve the immediate concerns I have for other children in the army cadets.’