The current child abuse scandal rocking Families SA already has all the tragic hallmarks of those that have gone before.
As a lawyer, it brings me no joy to think that we are only at the beginning of what could well be another sad and distressing chapter in our State’s history.
Seeing first-hand the pain that parents are enduring is extremely difficult. They are devastated and angry and have every right to be. And, three weeks on from the initial allegations, I am fearful there is more bad news to come.
Indeed, my experience in dealing with sex abuse cases, some four hundred over the past decade, tells me that these sorts of allegations are rarely “one-offs”.
Instead, what tends to happen is that other people who may have been too frightened to speak out about their own situation, whose previous complaints had fallen on deaf ears, suddenly find their voice and that’s a good thing.
My experience also tells me that there could be a certain amount of ducking and weaving by those who were perhaps in a position to act on those complaints.
Ducking and weaving is never the answer.
In fact, it usually raises even more questions and they are often very serious ones. This current case raises many questions and just as many alarm bells. Why were the complaints of the accused’s co-workers not acted upon? Why were the concerns of worried parents deemed to be “paranoid”?
The answers will hopefully come via a full and thorough inquiry into how a system, designed to protect the most vulnerable and fragile in our community, could seemingly fail so utterly in its charter.
I believe we must also consider a central record of complaints, a co-ordinated approach to eliminate even the remote possibility of a future oversight. That, when a complaint is made, appropriate action is taken and processes are followed; that parents, often frightened and vulnerable themselves, are treated with dignity and respect and offered the support they need and deserve.