Steven Larkins: he is the focus of the first public hearings of the Royal Commission into child sex abuse Photo: Phil Hearne
Steven Larkins was a 25-year-old scout leader when he got into bed with an 11-year-old boy and indecently assaulted him in 1992.
But the danger he presented to children persisted for another 20 years before he was convicted of fraud, possessing child pornography and abusing two boy scouts.
Larkins is now in jail, but his misdeeds will be the focus of the first public hearings of the Royal Commission into child sex abuse to be held in Sydney from September 16.
By the time Larkins was charged, he had parental responsibility for 19 Aboriginal children in the Hunter region.
Scouts Australia, Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services, where Larkins was chief executive, and the then Department of Community Services will be in the spotlight at the Royal Commission led by Justice Peter McClellan.
Larkins pleaded guilty last year to committing indecent acts against a boy aged 11 in 1992 and another boy aged 12 in 1997 and received good behaviour bonds. One of these incidents had been investigated by police in the 1990s but no charges were laid.
He was jailed earlier this year for 22 months with a non-parole period of 15 months for fraud and child pornography offences after an employee of Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services found child pornography on a USB stick belonging to him.
A Fairfax Media investigation found that scouting authorities were alerted to Larkins' suspected paedophile behaviour in the early to mid-1990s.
The judge in the child pornography case found that he forged documents in 2004 to say he was safe to work with children because he feared the earlier police investigation would be uncovered by a background check.
The public hearing will examine what went on within and between Scouts Australia, DoCS and Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services to allow Larkins to pass the Working with Children Check which gave him access to some of the state's most vulnerable children as Hunter Aboriginal Children's Services chief executive. In that role he also gave advice to the NSW government on child protection issues and oversaw $5 million in taxpayer funding.
The Royal Commission, which has been conducting private hearings in Sydney, Brisbane, Western Australia and Canberra to scope out issues of focus, has already called for submissions on Working with Children Checks and Child Safe Institutions.
Royal Commission chief executive Janette Dines said the commission has not been set up to examine individual cases of alleged abuse, but to identify where institutions have gone wrong in the past and what can be done to protect children for the future.
People seeking to appear at the first public hearing are invited to apply via the commission's website – childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au – by August 26.