The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse did not specifically look at Tasmanian government institutions, leaving many Tasmanian survivors with a sense of hopelessness, feeling they had been overlooked by the mainland.
It is hoped that the new Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings will provide much-needed answers and change for the state’s survivors.
Sam Leishman, for example, was abused by a teacher at Hobart’s New Town High School in the 1970s. The teacher, Darrel George Harington, has since been jailed for the sexual abuse of boys in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Education Department documents showed that numerous complaints were made about Harington but he was simply moved from school to school.
“For quite a few years now I’ve been trying to get some answers from the Department of Education about my own circumstances and during that time I’ve found that I’m not alone; there are a lot of people that are struggling to find answers regarding their own circumstances,” Sam said.
“It looks like we’re going to have a really deep, thorough investigation [by the Commission of Inquiry] as to why some of those problems have occurred in the past.”
The Commission was announced in late 2020 by then-Premier Peter Gutwein. The Premier was under increasing pressure regarding three departments: the Education Department, the Launceston General Hospital (LGH) and the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. The Commission will also be looking into out-of-home care.
At the Commission’s opening hearing in October 2021, counsel assisting the commission Maree Norton said institutional abuse in Tasmania “may have been… made possible by structural weaknesses in how these institutions understand and respond to child sexual abuse”.
“At worst, there may have been an active cover-up or minimisation to protect reputations and institutional interests,” she said.
The inquiry will hold six weeks of public hearings in Hobart and Launceston over the coming months and is expected to deliver its final report by May 2023.
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Feature Image: ABC News