Lawyers for abuse victims have welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s announcement that there will be an independent inquiry into the Department of Education’s responses to and handling of child sexual abuse claims.
Maurice Blackburn Special Counsel Jed McNamara said the inquiry was an important step in ensuring best practice in the protection of children in its care and the way in which the Department responds to allegations of abuse, following a number of recent legal claims for negligence in the Department’s handling of historical abuse allegations.
“It’s important that this inquiry is truly independent and that the terms of reference are broad enough to shine a light on any past and current deficiencies in the Education Department’s reporting and handling of abuse complaints,” Mr McNamara said
“Where problems are identified there needs to be swift action from the Tasmanian Government, we will therefore be watching with interest its response to the findings of the inquiry,” he said
Mr McNamara said that despite mandatory reporting being introduced in the late 1970s in Tasmania, the Department of Education has questions to answer in relation to its handling of sexual abuse claims over many years.
“A number of negligence claims have recently been brought in which it has been claimed that the senior staff within the Department of Education protected known paedophiles, moving them around different schools, allowing them to continue abusing from the 1970s into the early 2000s.
“Disturbingly, the historic actions of the Tasmanian Department of Education in many ways mirrors the actions of the Catholic Church in Australia, which has been shown to have protected its paedophile priests in a similar way. It’s shocking to think this was happening in the public education system over such a long period of time,” he said.