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Schools, scouts to co-operate in commission

Date

Christopher Knaus

The government has announced a Royal Commission to investigate decades of child abuse in churches, schools and foster homes.

The government has announced a Royal Commission to investigate decades of child abuse in churches, schools and foster homes. Photo: Christine Gleisner

Three ACT institutions publicly embroiled in child sex abuse - Marist College, Daramalan College, and the ACT Scouts - say they will co-operate with the royal commission into child sexual abuse.

The Catholic colleges were plagued by abuse through the 1970s and 1990s, with victims accusing the schools of cover-ups and a ''behind closed doors'' mentality.

More than 100 court cases were brought against the schools, and lawyers say victims continue to come forward to litigate.

Daramalan College principal Rita Daniels has told The Canberra Times she ''fully supported'' the royal commission and said the school stood ready to co-operate.

Ms Daniels said the school instilled a much greater awareness of child abuse, and had strengthened safeguards to protect students.

''I am confident that we have in place every possible process, and every possible procedure, to mitigate against it ever happening again,'' Ms Daniels said.

''It's very difficult for any person in any organisation to say that it will not happen again, I would love to be able to say that.

''I can say, I would work 100 per cent with my staff to do everything possible to make sure it never happens here again.''

Canberra firm Porters Lawyers believed there were up to five abusers at Marist in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Two of the most notorious perpetrators were convicted paedophile John Chute, known as Brother Kostka, and teacher Paul Lyons, who committed suicide in 2000 after a victim went to police.

Lyons also worked at Daramalan College from 1989.

Marist College headmaster Richard Sidorko declined to be interviewed yesterday, but issued a statement saying the school welcomed the royal commission.

''Marist College will support and co-operate with the royal commission if called upon to do so,'' Mr Sidorko said.

The ACT Scouts have also been marred by a handful of child abuse scandals in the past.

One of the ACT's most notorious convicted paedophiles, Aaron James Holliday, was a former trainee leader of the Scouts in 2007, while a member of the older Venturers section group, for members aged 13-18, was convicted of child sex offences against a 13-year-old girl he met in the movement in 2004.

A former police constable also started a sexual relationship with a girl who had just turned 16 after meeting her through Scouts in 2007.

ACT Scouts chief commissioner Peter Harris said the group immediately moved to eradicate any chance of further child abuse, not stopping to wait for an inquiry or royal commission like that announced on Tuesday.

''We've got as many safeguards as we can without tying everyone in cotton wool,'' Mr Harris said.

''I'm certainly confident all of our adult leaders are trained to be aware of their responsibility.

''Misbehaviour is just not tolerated, we're training our leaders, we're watchful of our leaders, we have reviews regularly to see how people are going, we have people visiting different sections, and we have people in charge of those sections to make sure everything is all right.''

Fairfax reported last month that Scouts in NSW kept unofficial ''red'' files in the 1960s to 1990s on suspected paedophile Scout leaders that were not always reported to police.

But Mr Harris said Scouts ACT were now ''hyper-sensitive'' to the issue, and opened all of its documents and records to police.

He said any suspected misbehaviour was immediately reported to authorities.

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