Girl's sex assault claims ignored, inquiry told
A John Oxley Youth Centre teacher who was on an excursion to Mount Barney in 1988 when a girl from the centre was allegedly sexually assaulted was never asked to write a police report.
The evidence has emerged in Queensland’s Child Protection Inquiry, which is now investigating allegations of child abuse at Queensland’s youth detention centres two decades ago.
Retired teacher Gordon Cooper told Queensland’s Child Protection Inquiry on Wednesday morning that he and five other staff members took a number of children on a "socialising" excursion to the Lower Portals area of Mount Barney on May 24, 1988.
Mr Cooper said this morning he wrote a report about a number of boys absconding from that excursion after being asked to do so by then manager of the John Oxley Youth Centre, Peter Coyne.
However he said he was not asked to write a report on the allegations that the girl, then 14, was sexually assaulted on the trip.
Mr Cooper said he was not aware that the girl had been sexually assaulted until "a couple of days later".
He said he had seen the girl kissing one of the other boys, but did not see this as unusual.
Retired magistrate Noel Heiner was asked in 1989 by the then government, led by Russell Cooper, to investigate staff complaints about the management of the John Oxley Youth Centre.
Evidence gathered during the short-lived inquiry were destroyed by the incoming Goss Labor government in March 1990.
Gordon Cooper said on Wednesday morning he made no submission on any matter to the Heiner inquiry but told the inquiry he had however been approached by police four times in the past 12 years about the sexual assault inquiry.
Solicitor Gordon Harris, representing the young woman who was allegedly attacked, specifically asked Mr Cooper if he had made a statement to police about the boys absconding, or the alleged sexual assault.
"Myself and one of the other people took them back to the John Oxley Youth Centre," Mr Cooper said.
"We stopped a police car which was approaching the area, we spoke to the police officers there," he said.
"Other than that I didn’t make a statement to any police about the incident."
He said he did not make any police statement about the alleged sexual assault of the then-14-year-old girl.
Former youth worker June West said she was asked to give evidence to Mr Heiner by her "superiors", but could not recall who made the request.
Asked if she had complaints about the management of the centre, she replied "none whatsoever".
Mrs West said she had never heard any allegations of sexual assault at the centre.
But she agreed she signed a document showing she accompanied the then-14-year-old girl to Mater Children’s Hospital on May 27, 1988, for a medical inspection.
"That is my handwriting," she told the inquiry this morning. "On Friday, the 27th of May, I accompanied [name withheld] to the Mater Children’s Hospital for a medical examination with doctor [name withheld] from the social work section."
In 2010 the Bligh government paid the woman, now in her 40s, $120,000 as a confidential settlement for the assault.
Mrs West said did not have any recollection of taking the girl to the hospital. "I can’t remember, sorry."
She said she would have been asked to write the report outlining the trip to the hospital by one of her superiors.
No one has been charged over the alleged assault, which was investigated by senior police around 2007.
Several former John Oxley Youth Centre workers spoke of staff "factions" at the centre, based around their support or opposition to the John Oxley Youth Centre’s then manager Peter Coyne.
Gail Leggat (then Aitkenhead), told the inquiry that it was clear when she started work at the centre in July 1990 that there were "factions" among the staff.
Another former youth worker, Jill Wesche, told the inquiry she felt that some staff defended Mr Coyne, while others supported him.
"It was like a gang-up and I just felt that maybe he was not getting a fair go," Ms Wesche said.
Dennis Everett, a former youth worker, said he was surprised to get a phone call from Mr Coyne, accusing Mr Everett of ruining his (Mr Coyne’s) career, after Mr Everett had given what he thought was "confidential" information to Mr Heiner.
Kenneth Kleidon, an Australian Workers Union organiser, told the inquiry Mr Coyne was "totally intolerable" as centre manager.
"I locked horns with him on numerous occasions," he said.
Mr Kleidon said he provided a handwritten submission to AWU regional organiser, Wayne Mills, but never provided evidence to Mr Heiner.
Queensland’s $9 million Child Protection Inquiry has two sets of terms of reference, one of which allows it to investigate the past actions of senior public servants and ministers over their response to child abuse allegations.
The hearings continue.