Push for inquiry into sexual abuse in Victorian government schools

The Victorian Government is under pressure to investigate child sexual abuse in schools.

Push for inquiry into sexual abuse in Victorian government schools
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The Victorian government is being pushed to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into the widespread issue of child sexual abuse within its schools, following years of ignored calls for action.

The meeting with victims of abuse, scheduled for Monday, is seen as a crucial first step by the opposition. However, Shadow Treasurer Brad Rowswell is advocating for a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry, long overdue, to fully understand the scale of abuse and provide justice to victims.

"It's one thing to meet with victim-survivors, it's quite another thing to understand the full scale of abuse in Victorian government schools and to respond in a measured, considered and comprehensive way," said Rowswell.

He has called for an immediate announcement of a parliamentary inquiry with a reporting deadline set for the last parliamentary sitting day of 2023, followed by a Premier apology in the parliament on the first sitting day of 2024.

Multiple inquiries, including the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, have ignored cases of abuse in government schools. The 2013 Victoria Parliament's report on the Handling of Child Abuse did not include government organizations, and this has led to calls for a dedicated investigation into the matter.

Beaumaris Primary School, with at least four known offenders in the 1970s, is emerging as the epicenter of child abuse in Victorian government schools. Calls for the inquiry have been supported by victim-survivors, legal experts, and organizations such as Shine Lawyers, who are representing several clients whose lives have been impacted by the abuse they suffered at state-run schools.

Shine Lawyers Abuse Law Practice Leader, Amy Olver, said the Premier's apology will be meaningless without real action.

"We need to fully understand how rife this offending was in government schools. As a society, we can’t shy away from what survivors endured. We owe it to them to shine a light on the injustice of the past," she says.

Sources close to a police investigation involving one of the teachers have revealed that the offending was an open secret, with multiple complaints being made at the time. However, the Department of Education is accused of either ignoring or shuffling the teachers between schools or regional offices, similar to the way the Catholic Church shuffled paedophile priests between parishes for decades.

The Victorian Department of Education is reportedly facing multiple legal actions over its handling of paedophile teachers. The state government has confirmed that a formal apology will be made later this year to survivors of all forms of abuse in institutional settings.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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