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Royal Commission examines YMCA and paedophile -

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TONY EASTLEY: The YMCA today comes under the spotlight of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The inquiry will focus on the case of convicted paedophile Jonathon Lord, who was employed as a child-care worker by the YMCA in Sydney's south. Lord is serving a minimum six years in jail for abusing 12 young boys.

The commission will investigate the policies, staff recruitment, training and supervision at the YMCA, and the police response when the allegations were first raised in 2011.

Here's Emily Bourke.

EMILY BOURKE: It's an organisation that promotes the health and welfare of children and young people, and now the Royal Commission is scrutinising just how the YMCA, or the Y, protected children in its care.

Former employee Jonathan Lord was jailed earlier this year for abusing a dozen boys - either at the YMCA's childcare centres, on vacation-care excursions, or in victims' homes.

PHILLIP HARE: This has been devastating, not only for the families, but for the Y. We've never had an issue such as this. We don't cover up child sexual assault. We don't deal with it internally.

EMILY BOURKE: The CEO of YMCA New South Wales is Phillip Hare.

PHILLIP HARE: There is no doubt that Jonathan was an insidious and deceitful employee who came to our organisation. We've reviewed deeply and hardly all YMCA policies. At the time, staff thought that Jonathan was an exceptional childcare worker, as did parents, as did children.

He was the person that children wanted to go and see when they came to the service. In hindsight now, when we look at some of the things such as providing additional time with children, having favourites, that's clear grooming behaviour. And staff now recognise that that's the behaviour that is not acceptable in the YMCA and we have a zero-net tolerance to any of those breaches of policy.

EMILY BOURKE: The Royal Commission's CEO is Janette Dines.

JANETTE DINES: We'll be looking at how pre-employment checks are done, whether references are checked from previous employers. There will also be a focus on training of employees and also the processes of supervising employees when they're in contact with children.

EMILY BOURKE: Are there any features or characteristics of this case study that you think might be particularly disturbing or alarming?

JANETTE DINES: This case study will be disturbing because it involves a large number of young children, and it also happened quite recently.

EMILY BOURKE: And she says the public hearing will also shine a light how offenders groom their victims.

JANETTE DINES: It's quite a complex area for us to look into and something that is really important in building child-safe organisations.

EMILY BOURKE: Do you think that might cause some panic among parents who've got their kids in childcare centres or vacation care?

JANETTE DINES: I think there is certainly scope for that. Part of what will happen in the hearing is that we will bring expert evidence forward that will be really helpful to parents in just helping them to think about what sort of things should they look for, how can you manage risks.

EMILY BOURKE: Nesha O'Neil is the president of Child Care New South Wales.

NESHA O'NEIL: It's a very difficult thing though to differentiate between a genuinely caring and affectionate staff member who forms bonds with families, which is what we want, and someone who might be using those bonds maliciously.

The best thing that we can do is to follow the procedures, do working with children checks, have appropriate supervision the whole time and the supervision rules are as much for keeping staff safe as they are for keeping children safe.

EMILY BOURKE: So far, the Royal Commission has heard from 500 people in private sessions. Another 500 will be heard by the end of the year.

The inquiry has referred 40 matters to police.

TONY EASTLEY: Emily Bourke reporting.