“Contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities”
It sounds like a dream come true for your children. They can learn how to go on to become well-balanced and effective adults, learn useful skills, and make lots of good friends all at once.
However, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed Scouts Australia has demons lurking inside.
Steve Larkins, for example, was a Scout Leader and the Chief Executive of the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services (HACS). He used his position at HACs to literally forge his Working With Children Check.
Larkins often (improperly) held sleepovers with the boys at his home and even fostered children from HACs.
In 2011, he was arrested in 2011 after an honest co-worker discovered hundreds of pornographic images and at least 40 videos involving children on his USB. The boys in the videos were aged between 10 and 14-years-old. He pleaded guilty to committing indecent acts against an 11-year-old boy in 1992 and a 12-year-old boy in 1997.
But Steve Larkins wasn’t alone in this.
There have been multiple Scout Leaders involved in these kinds of horrendous, skin-crawling crimes, including Neale Valentine.
Valentine’s reign of terror cut short by Strike Force Span
Valentine was not spoken about in the Royal Commission’s enquiry into Scouts Australia and Scouts NSW.
The focus was set on Steve Larkins, whose crimes highlighted undeniable issues around dodgy police checks, current policies and procedures for child protection, and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
Valentine was able to slip through the cracks for decades. It wasn’t until the Royal Commission started its investigation that more allegations were raised about Valentine.
Valentine was a Sydney Scout Leader in the 1990s.
He was in his late 20s when he started abusing boy scouts. He had a disturbing appetite for children, with no concept of what was “appropriate” or “overstepping the line”.
In October 2018, North Shore Police Area Command established ‘Strike Force Span’ to investigate reports of ongoing sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy. The perpetrator was known to the teen – it was his Scout Leader, Neale Valentine.
Strike Force Span investigated Valentine for 18 months until finally, in March 2020, Valentine was arrested at Sydney International Airport. There were multiple allegations against him.
At first, Valentine was facing seven charges. The police alleged he sexually and indecently assaulted the boy at an overseas Scout camp, at New South Wales camps, and at his own home in St Ives between 1994 and 1995.
However, after further investigations, the police alleged Valentine sexually and indecently assaulted another five boys aged between 12 and 15-years-old in various locations throughout New South Wales, as well as overseas between 1986 and 1995.
Valentine was confronted about the allegations in 1995 by Scouts Australia. He resigned soon after.
He was not sacked. He was not asked to step down. He promptly resigned of his own accord. There was no report to the police.
He went on to live a normal life for another 25 years as if nothing had ever happened.
But his past came back to haunt him in 2020. He was arrested and charged.
On Valentine’s behalf, his legal aid lawyer argued there was nothing to explain the long period of time between the alleged offences and when a report was made to police in October 2018.
Valentine also applied for bail and offered to hand over his passport, live with his parents, and report to police on a daily basis, but bail was promptly denied.
Paedophile Scout Leader also admitted to watching porn with underage boys in his home
After being arrested, Valentine also told police he watched pornographic material with underage boys during a “sleepover” at his home in St Ives.
Valentine would often host sleepovers for the Scouts. The boys would complete household chores like washing cars and gardening for him.
“The accused made admissions to supplying the boys with pornographic videos at his residence and watching pornographic videos with the boys,” Sergeant Geha, the Court’s Prosecutor, said.
One of the boys described the experience as “weird” because he had never seen pornographic material before. The Scouts may have also slept on a queen size bed together at Valentine’s house.
Whether or not Valentine joined them is uncertain.
When Valentine was asked about the specific allegations, he repeated “I don’t recall the situation.”
Police charged Valentine with nine additional offences (on top of the existing seven charges) including five counts of aggravated indecent assault to a victim under the age of 16 years, two counts of aggravated sexual assault to a victim under the age of 16 years, and two counts of committing an indecent sexual act with a person under the age of 16.
Investigations under Strike Force Span continue to this day.
Scouts Australia apologises to victims of Scouting abuse – to no avail
Long before Valentine was arrested, the Chief Commissioner of Scouts Australia, Phil Harrison, apologised to victims of abuse within Scouts.
On Friday 5th of October 2018, Harrison apologised on behalf of all states and territories.
“Scouts Australia listened to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, to survivor groups and most importantly to survivors. They indicated that an apology may help with survivors’ healing. Scouting sincerely hopes that the apology will help those who suffered through their time in Scouting, as well as their families who have also been affected.
The apology is a genuine and heartfelt admission that, for some young people, their time in Scouting was a negative experience. For this, we are truly sorry.
In preparing the apology Scouts Australia has been assisted by some survivors and organisations which support them. We are very grateful for their advice. Nothing is more important to Scouts Australia than the safety of the children in our care.”
However, it has been reported Scouts NSW was one of the most stubborn institutions to deal with following the Royal Commission. Despite apologising to the survivors of Scouts Australia, some survivors waited up to 18 months to get an initial response from Scouts NSW, while others were left in limbo for years – just waiting for a simple resolution.
Because of this, Scouts Australia’s apology seemed hollow to many survivors. Many reported thinking the apology was a “lip service” because no positive action was being taken to help victims of abuse.
It has since been reported Scouts NSW has had to sell scout halls and campsites to compensate abuse victims through the National Redress Scheme. These were assets acquired over the span of a hundred years from tireless fundraising, generous donations and bequests left in the wills of grateful families.
Child abuse survivors have waited long enough for justice and compensation, and the acknowledgment of their pain. Institutions like Scouts Australia and Scouts NSW who have hired paedophiles, concealed and mishandled allegations of abuse, and allowed child sexual abuse to occur, do not have the luxury of delays.
Abuse survivors need their claims to be resolved now.
It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the abuse occurred. It happened and innocent people have suffered, year on year, waiting for their voices to be heard.
If you believe you were abused by men like Steve Larkins and Neale Valentine in Scouts, or any institutional setting for that matter, Kelso Lawyers is here for you.
We have the expertise and understanding to take on your case and win the compensation you’ve been waiting for.
Get the justice you deserve with Kelso Lawyers. We want to hear your story. Call (02) 4907 4200 or complete the online form before you accept payment from the National Redress Scheme.
Image: Sydney Morning Herald