In response to the Four Corners program that aired on Monday night in relation to new claims of inappropriate behaviour by several current teachers at St Kevin’s school in Melbourne, Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of the Blue Knot Foundation offers the following comments:
The allegations of sexual harassment – including potential grooming and inappropriate behaviour towards boys – raises serious concerns and a myriad of questions.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final report in December 2017 and the redress scheme has been in operation for some 19 months. It is about taking responsibility and being accountable.
The Royal Commission looked at systemic failures in preventing and reporting grooming and abuse, supporting survivors, transparency and holding perpetrators to account, institutions in which child sexual abuse has occurred are expected to join the scheme to be made accountable for their failures and provide appropriate redress for countless victims impacted.
While St Kevin’s has joined the redress scheme under the Trustees of the Christian Brothers, the Royal Commission found the Christian Brothers were among the worst perpetrators of child abuse, with 22 per cent of its religious members being identified as alleged abusers.
Last year St. Kevin’s hit the news headlines with revelations of sexist attitudes with reports of misogynistic chants practiced by herds of boys. These allegations revealed serious systemic cultural attitudinal issues within the school.
A sports coach was convicted because of grooming behaviours – their seriousness subject to new criminal laws. However, the sports coach received character statements and support from the Dean of Sports and the Headmaster while the victim, a child at the time, received no support and was subjected to two days of cross examination by a barrister Robert Richter, who coincidentally was on George Pell’s defence team.
When the victim’s lawyer sought counselling notes from the school, they were heavily redacted.
Now, the current allegations of inappropriate behaviour of current staff – and staff concerns about possible grooming behaviour and allegations of sexual harassment – appear against a backdrop of inaction, cover-up, and misogyny.
One has to ask the question – What has really changed?
About Blue Knot Foundation
Blue Knot Foundation is Australia’s National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma, empowering recovery and building resilience for the five million adult Australians (1 in 4) with a lived experience of childhood trauma (including abuse), their families and communities. The organisation played a pivotal role supporting the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and in advocating for fair and equitable redress.