Hundreds allege sexual abuse in Victorian state schools

A freedom of information (FOI) request submitted in 2022 by outgoing Victorian MP Stuart Grimley has this week yielded a shocking revelation. As reported by the Guardian, “almost 400 civil claims have been made against the Victorian government for historical child sexual abuse in state schools in the past 12 years”.

Grimley, who formerly worked for Victoria Police as a sexual offences and child abuse detective, said his experience in the field tells him this number is just “the tip of the iceberg”. Given how many generally avoid going through the civil process, he says, “there’ll be a hell of a lot more out there that we just don’t know”.

The 381 claims that have been made against Victorian state educational institutions include sexual abuse that has taken place in primary and secondary schools, specialist schools, early learning centres and after-school care. These civil claims are additional to the hundreds of Victorians who have applied to the national redress scheme as survivors of historical sexual abuse in Victorian government settings.

Of the 381 claims that came to light through the recent FOI request, over half have been settled out of court, and while 136 claims are ongoing, only two have gone to trial.

Grace Wilson of Rightside Legal represented the victims in those two cases. She told the Guardian the cases have given confidence to many more who have since come forward with their own stories of trauma and survival. She said, “Unchecked abusers in positions of authority leaving a trail of destruction across generations is not a problem that’s confined to the church. The state and other institutions are also reckoning with their own similar legacies.”

Wilson makes an important point. When the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was released in 2017, the lion’s share of media focus was on the Catholic Church for its failures.

Those failures were shocking and inexcusable.

Nationally, thousands of children were sexually abused over an 80-year period while in the care of Catholic institutions. The Church failed to adequately respond to the abuse, and in some cases, even covered for the perpetrators. The Catholic Church was rightly held to account. For many Australians, the Church is yet to regain the trust and reputation it once enjoyed in society.

This being true, how has the Victorian government avoided similar scrutiny? Thanks to Grimley’s FOI request, we now know that Victorian state schools have been sitting on a scandal approaching, if not exceeding, the scale of the abuse seen in the Catholic Church.

If the reports in Victoria are true, why haven’t all the relevant Department of Education records been subpoenaed? Why is the Guardian the only Australian news outlet to report on a story that should have the attention of the whole nation? Where are the news channels? Our ABC?

Just a few years ago, Australia’s legacy press was so committed to ratting out child sexual abusers that they found Cardinal George Pell guilty before the courts did — and before the High Court exonerated him of the charges. Where are those brave crusaders now?

Public schools educate 65 percent of students in Australia. Surely the scandal coming to light in Victoria’s public schools is of interest to the Australian public?

As reported in MercatorNet recently, the American press was similarly uninterested when hundreds of Chicago public school teachers were found to have groomed and sexually assaulted school students last year.

By all means, the church should be held to the high standards it professes. But holding the government to… no standards at all?

Just before Grimley lost his seat in last year’s election, he passed a non-binding motion in parliament, urging Premier Dan Andrews to apologise to victims of sexual abuse in Victoria’s state schools.

Andrews is yet to issue that apology.

Hundreds of survivors are waiting.

Meanwhile, we hear crickets from the media.



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