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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13349

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (21:04): I do not often say good things about the former Labor government. However, one of the few positive legacies I could cite from this era is the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A number of things that have come out of these hearings have been invaluable to the community. Firstly, it has given victims of abuse a chance to be heard on the public record, once and for all. I have read many media reports of the hearings, where people who have testified have told what a valuable experience this is towards their healing. Consequential to the testimony, is the fact that more than 800 incidents of sexual abuse have been referred to police. In some of these cases justice is being served right now. All of this is a valuable thing. It is good for the victims, and it is good for society that people who committed these despicable and horrid crimes against children, albeit several decades ago, will face justice.

As the royal commission process moves towards conclusion, it is time for members of this chamber to start giving serious consideration to how we prevent future crimes. The top priority of any government must be to protect its citizens, and the citizens who are most in need of protection are those who are unable to defend themselves—that is, children.

I would like to briefly outline one of the stories that has surfaced through the royal commission process. I will not name the offender, not because we owe him any duty, but to protect the privacy and dignity of his victims, some of whom still reside in my electorate. So, for the purpose of this speech we will call him X. X was a teacher. He was sacked by the South Australian public school system, in 1978, for 'disgraceful and improper conduct'. He went on to work at a Brisbane private school, in the 1980s, where he was sacked after accusations of sexual abuse. He was promptly rehired at another school, where a student went to the principal and made detailed accusations about X sexually abusing him. The principal of the school warned the child not to tell lies. He threatened to take away his scholarship and he ignored the accusation. X later resigned from that school, was given a glowing reference by the principal and moved to my electorate and took up another teaching position. It was in the Northern Territory that he was sacked and convicted of sexually abusing five boys from his last school.

I do not know how many young lives were irreparably damaged by the actions of X. I do know that every victim after his first in the late 1970s until his dismissal from the Northern Territory education system in 1993 was failed by the system. They were failed by those who did not escalate the accusations to police, and they were failed by a system which allowed a paedophile to continue working unsupervised with children.

Along with my colleague the member for Dawson I am campaigning for the creation of a national register of people who have been convicted of sexual crimes against children. This is building on from the good work that the Northern Territory government has done. Government must protect its people, especially those who are unable to protect themselves. I call on members from both sides of this chamber to support the creation of this register, because we need to make sure that stories similar to that of X are stopped. They are so common that we have not even scratched the surface. I think that even if the register stops one child being abused it is worth it. There will be more to come on this issue. The member for Dawson and I are very passionate about this particular issue. We would like others on both sides of the chamber to support us.