This post follows the previous post about the Victoria Education Department suppressing cases of sexual about in state schools as reported by Russell Jackson on ABC online. Gerard Henderson in the latest Media Watch Dog issue (1 Sept) asks why the ABC gave such scant coverage to such an important story (9000 words). He directed the question to management.
Gerard Henderson to ABC management 1 September 2023
As you are no doubt aware, on Sunday 27 August 2023, ABC News Online ran a story by Russell Jackson titled “How the Victorian Education Department’s child sexual abuse scandal was hidden for decades”.
This was a very important article – running for around 9000 words – which documented how the Victorian Education Department covered up multiple cases of child sexual abuse in Victorian government schools for many decades from the 1960s on. This included moving pedophile teachers from school to school. According to Russell Jackson’s report – to this day the Victorian Education Department has declined to properly address historical child sexual abuse within its own schools.
As you will be aware, solicitors at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers appear regularly on ABC news and current affairs. In his article, Russell Jackson quoted John Rule (a Maurice Blackburn solicitor) as in the following:
“At first I couldn’t believe how common it was,” says John Rule, who leads the abuse team at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and has represented dozens of plaintiffs who’ve sued the Victorian Education Department in historical childhood sexual abuse matters.
“I tell people the Victorian Education Department are the worst to deal with, and that as far as cover-ups, they’re every bit as bad as the worst bits of the Catholic Church, and people can’t believe it.
“The cover-up was comprehensive, and they managed to slip through the gaps in terms of inquiries and royal commissions, so they’ve never been properly looked at or had their feet held to the fire. The extent of the problem has never been publicly documented, therefore the Education Department has never had to address it or grapple with it in any way.”
Indeed, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse did not examine a single case study specific to Victorian Education Department schools. Neither did the Victorian government’s own Betrayal of Trust inquiry of 2013, which probed only religious and non-government institutions.
So, according to Mr Rule, in its handling of historical child sexual abuse cases, the Victorian Education Department is “as bad as the worst bits of the Catholic Church”. Moreover, Mr Rule commented that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, headed by Peter McClellan KC, did not examine even one government school in Victoria. In fact, McClellan’s commission totally ignored government schools in the whole of Australia.
Russell Jackson’s report got a 6 minute run on the ABC News channel on the afternoon of Sunday 27 August which featured an interview with Rightside Legal’s Michael Magazanik. I did not see the ABC evening news in Melbourne on that day. But, as far as I can see, Russell Jackson’s story was not covered by the likes of ABC TV Breakfast, ABC Radio National Breakfast, ABC Radio AM/The World Today/PM, ABC Radio Melbourne’s Mornings program on Monday 28 August.
This in spite of the fact that the above programs gave extensive coverage to the McClellan Royal Commission and to historical child sexual abuse in schools run by the Catholic and Anglican churches.
Currently the Andrews Labor government in Victoria has set up an inquiry into a nest of pedophile teachers at Beaumaris Primary School in Melbourne. The issue is much bigger than one school under the control of the Victorian Education Department.
My question is this. Why did the ABC give such limited coverage to such a big story which affected government schools – in view of the fact that it had given substantial coverage with respect to Catholic and Anglican schools on the same issue?