‘Every scout leader knows you do not touch kids. End of story.’
Miles is a man in his 40s who attended a private session on behalf of his 12-year-old daughter, Jemima. Since the 1990s, he had been a scout leader for Scouts Australia. His scout groups had always been small and close-knit. A few summers ago, Miles and his group were sent to a camp in another state. He explained that this camp is an annual occurrence and he always attended with his group.
But this time, instead of being with his kids Miles was told by another leader that he would be separated from his group and sent to ‘adult camp’. This camp was an hour’s walk from where Miles’s group was staying. After Miles questioned the decision, he was told ‘your kids will learn resilience without you there’. He felt nothing could be done because the leaders were adamant.
Miles was away for one day. He recalls feeling uncomfortable not knowing what was happening with his group, but was sure that they would be okay. But the following evening, Jemima came to Miles and told him that one of the girls from the group, Kelly, needed to see him. Kelly was 14 and the eldest of his group.
‘I said I couldn’t see her that night because I was at adult camp and I had to set myself up … I saw [Kelly] the next morning and that’s when [Kelly] told me that she was indecently assaulted by a leader on her camp.’
When he arrived at the children’s camp, Miles reported Kelly’s abuse to the scout official. That night he called the leaders' contingent of his home state and explained what had happened, only to be yelled at and told to ‘go and tell the scout official’ – something he’d already done. Shortly after, Miles ran into Kelly who told him Wesley Rumer, a scout leader, had abused her and two other girls in the group.
Miles took the girls to the scout official and told them that the assault happened to ‘not one but three girls’ and that this was now a ‘major situation’. He was told that Rumer had been separated from the children and to ‘leave it with them’, because it would be dealt with once they returned home. He assumed that the scout official would notify the families of the victims what had happened.
However, Miles was appalled that Rumer was still at the campsite and could have access to children. He decided to report the matter to local police. Miles told police that Rumer had been separated from the children but was still at the camp. He recalls the officer being shocked that Rumer was still near the children. Rumer was then taken into custody and charged with aggravated indecent assault.
After the police had left, Jemima came to Miles and disclosed that she had also been abused. She was touched on her bottom by an unnamed scout leader in a shed. When she tried to tell another leader, she was told that her perpetrator was ‘just being friendly’; the leader didn’t report it or tell Miles what had happened.
‘My whole world collapsed', Miles said. 'If anything happens to them I feel responsible.’
The next morning, Miles relayed what had happened to Jemima to contingent leaders in his home state. Two officers flew out that day and Miles was told that they wanted to ‘talk to [Jemima]’ to find out what happened. Miles was not told when the officers arrived and wasn’t present during their interview with Jemima. He was upset because he wanted to be there with his daughter during this difficult time. Miles then contacted the police because the contingent officers had interviewed his daughter without him being present, and withheld from him the identity of the man who abused Jemima.
The next morning, Miles and Jemima were offered flights to return home. He understood this was because he’d reported the abuse to the police. This angered Miles because he ‘hadn’t done anything wrong’ and was being punished for following the scouts’ procedures correctly. Miles then left the camp with Jemima and hoped that the scouting officials would keep in contact regarding the sexual abuse. He received only one email from a scout leader, several months after the abuse had occurred. Miles was then dismissed from Scouts Australia.
Miles has been extremely upset with the way Scouts Australia dealt with this issue. He said no one has offered Jemima or the other members of the group any counselling. Incident reports weren’t conducted at the time of the abuse and were done only several months later because of the arrest. Miles doesn’t understand why it was left up to him to report the incidents to police. He noted that he’s never received a copy of Jemima’s statement made during the interview she had with the two scouting officials.
The draft report of the case incensed Miles because scouting officials had lied about several things, including that Rumer had been removed from the campsite after the allegations of child sexual abuse had been disclosed. This was untrue, as was the note that families of the victims had been informed of the abuse. The report also stated that the victims were asked if they wanted the cases of sexual abuse referred to the police, and had said, ‘No’. Miles said that all cases should have been referred to the police as a part of the leader’s ‘duty of care’, regardless of the victims’ wishes.
In recent months, Miles has had counselling and is on medication for anxiety. Jemima has also seen a counsellor and has also been diagnosed with anxiety. Despite doing the right thing, Miles feels responsible for what happened to the girls who were abused. He dislikes the fact his daughter can’t celebrate her ‘hard work’ in scouting because of the abuse. Miles and his wife are also having difficulties because she holds him responsible for the abuse of their daughter.
Miles is angry that the scouts officials have received awards and public recognition when they were dishonest and didn’t follow the proper protocols. Miles is also unhappy with Scouts Australia’s final report of the child sexual abuse cases, because they had ‘lied and covered up’ their mistakes.
‘I’ve been made to feel like a social leper in regards to scouting because I had these youths come to me. They had the confidence that I would do something.’
Miles is currently engaged with lawyers and wants compensation from Scouts Australia. He said the harm that the abuse and its aftermath have caused his family is devastating. Miles feels hurt that Scouts Australia is ‘protecting the brand and not the youth’.