Home | News | Vic Education Department’s response to paedophile teachers “appalling and systemic failure”
Then-Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the inquiry in June 2023. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Ian Currie

Vic Education Department’s response to paedophile teachers “appalling and systemic failure”

A culture of secrecy and cover-ups inside Victoria’s Department of Education let pedophile teachers abuse scores of children over more than three decades, a damning new report has found.

The Board of Inquiry chair, Kathleen Foley, released her report into historical child sexual abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and other government schools on Wednesday, revealing the department's handling of abuse allegations.

She called for a statewide truth-telling process to be launched by the Allan government to document experiences of all Victorian children abused at public schools.

“The Board of Inquiry has concluded that the Department’s response to allegations of child sexual abuse between 1960 and 1994 was an appalling and systemic failure,” she said.

“The Department failed in both its action and inaction.

“There was a culture of covering up child sexual abuse to prioritise the reputation of the education system, including schools and teachers.

“Because of a dearth of policies and procedures, there were no measures in place in the education system to identify, manage, respond to and prevent child sexual abuse.”

A statewide truth-telling process was among nine recommendations made by Ms Foley.

She also called for a statewide public apology, a restorative engagement program, and a new online hub and telephone helpline for adult victim-survivors.

Ms Foley found that between 1960 and 1994, there were no policies or procedures in place to identify, report, manage, or prevent child sexual abuse.

The department “prioritised the reputation of the education system, including the schools and teachers within it, above the safety of children.”

It also routinely transferred teachers between schools or to non-teaching positions as a way of “managing” allegations of child sexual abuse.

Multiple inquiries, including the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, have largely ignored offending in government schools.

The Victorian parliament’s 2013 report into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations did not include government organisations.

The probe into Beaumaris was slightly broadened to include certain other schools, but Sandringham MP Brad Rowswell said it didn’t go far enough.

“When I proposed a parliamentary inquiry into historical child sexual abuse into Victorian government schools in February 2023, I always intended to work with the Victorian government to provide victim survivors across the state with the opportunity to tell their stories,” he said.

“We know that child sexual abuse is not isolated to one location, and we know that there are victim-survivors across the state who deserve to have their voices heard.

“To give some victim survivors the opportunity for their voices to be heard and stories told, while not extending that opportunity to everyone, is just not right.

“Together with victim-survivors of child sexual abuse, I again implore the Victorian government to do the right thing by every victim survivor and implement a statewide inquiry into historical child sexual abuse in government schools. Anything less than this is unacceptable.”

A Department of Education spokesman said the government would consider the report and respond to the recommendations.

“We’re deeply sorry for the harm, abuse and injury inflicted on victim-survivors – this should simply never have happened,” he said.

“It is utterly unacceptable that any child should suffer sexual abuse, especially when they are in the care and supervision of a government school.

“We want to thank to the victim-survivors who courageously detailed their experiences of historical child sexual abuse at the Board of Inquiry.

“We reiterate our commitment to do everything we can to ensure that this never happens again and to ensure that victim-survivors get every support they need to rebuild their lives.”

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