Source – www.smh.com.au
Date – 29 June 2016
Sexual predators can move freely between youth organisations by exploiting nationally inconsistent child protection laws and loopholes in background checks, a royal commission has heard.
Giving evidence on the seventh day of a public inquiry into the Australian Defence Force, retired Air Commodore Dennis Green agreed the situation created risks for youngsters.
Commodore Green is a former director general of the Australian Air Force Cadets, where the commission has heard a number of teenagers suffered sexual abuse.
“The legislation across the states and territories relating to child abuse is not consistent,” he said.
“Variations in Working With Children Checks make it difficult to deliver a nationally consistent, safe environment for the training and care of young people.”
Chairman of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Peter McClellan told the hearing the situation was a “national disgrace”.
The commission has heard evidence that a former air force cadet was groomed and molested by an instructor in Brisbane but a police investigation into the allegation has not been finalised.
Commodore Green told the inquiry that meant the alleged perpetrator could continue to work with youth organisations.
“If there is an unresolved allegation, it won’t show up on a police check, it won’t show up on a Working With Children Check. We need a system to share that information. I can’t share that information with navy cadets, I can’t share it with army cadets, I can’t share it with Scouts. “These predators are able to hop from organisation to organisation because our system doesn’t allow us to share that information.”
Commodore Green, who is now the chairman of the National Executive Committee of Scouts Australia, said unresolved allegations should be included in a nationally consistent background check system.
Commodore Green told the commission that the Air Force Cadets must improve the way it handles child sexual abuse allegations, rather than leaving initial investigations to volunteers in the organisation.
The commission has heard previous evidence that 15-year-old air force cadet Eleanore Tibble took her own life after being falsely accused of an affair with an instructor in Hobart.
“It’s very clear to me to me that there needs to be improvement in the standard of investigations in the AAFC,” he said.
“It’s clear to me that we need to have specialists. We can’t expect people that are doing three hours a week to get the required training, knowledge and experience to deal with sexual abuse cases.” The hearing before Justice McClellan is scheduled to run until Friday.