Pressure grows for answers on paedophile teachers
PRESSURE is building on the Tasmania's education department to finally come clean over accusations it historically protected at least two alleged paedophile teachers.
Allison Ritchie, former Labor state minister and founder of People Protecting Children, has reignited calls for a parliamentary inquiry into why the state moved alleged child sex offending teachers from school to school during the 1970s to 1990s.
The renewed push, in response to the recent release of damning historical documents about now-convicted paedophiles Darrel George Harington and Anthony Alan LeClerc, has now been bolstered by demands for an independent investigation from Labor, the Greens and a lawyer preparing to sue the department on behalf of survivors.
But despite the groundswell of discontent, the department remained tight-lipped when questioned by the Mercury over whether it was prepared to divulge its secrets to the people of Tasmania - and the victims who were raped, traumatised and abused by its employees.
Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said the education department was "complicit in a terrible wrong" and that reparation and a public apology were required.
"Tasmania's Department of Education has never fully explained its historical wrongs that left vulnerable children prey to paedophile teachers who were moved from school to school," she said.
"Regrettably, it was not investigated by the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The survivors and their families have received no justice or closure."
She said it was not enough to say the issues would be dealt with through the National Redress Scheme, calling on Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff to commit to an "open and honest independent investigation" and for the results to be made public.
Ms Ritchie has urged the department over years to "revisit the obvious and glaring areas" of concern in its historical management of teachers who posed a risk to children.
She said an inquiry wouldn't be a witch-hunt, but an opportunity to learn from past mistakes, give victims a chance to tell their stories, and bring other perpetrators to account.
"I think what the victims want to know is why were these matters covered up?
"Why did this happen? Why didn't appropriate action come into play when complaints were being made?" she said.
Ms Ritchie said the department had unfinished work to do, "shouldn't be afraid of digging into the past", and that former teachers alleged as sex offenders in redress scheme claims should be investigated.
Shadow Attorney-General Ella Haddad said Labor would support an independent investigation into the historical allegations, perhaps conducted by a retired judge.
Sebastian Buscemi, the lawyer preparing civil action against the department on behalf of 10 plaintiffs abused by LeClerc, Harington and other teachers, said any inquiry must be independent for the sake of credibility and to increase participation from survivors.
"If we are going to be asking survivors of abuse to relive their trauma and participate in an inquiry, to help make sure that no child has to experience what they did, they need to have faith in that process," he said.
"What we allege was occurring … that senior departmental officers were knowingly moving paedophiles around, is very troubling.
"Tasmanians have a right to know exactly what happened."
Mr Rockliff said the government had participated in and supported the royal commission and adopted its recommendations.
He said it was inappropriate for him to publicly discuss Mr Buscemi's civil proceedings.
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as Pressure grows for answers on paedophile teachers