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Mothers of child abuse victims detail groomin -

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DAVID MARK: The royal commission into child sexual abuse has heard from several mothers whose children were abused by the convicted paedophile and former YMCA (Young Men's Christian Club) employee, Jonathan Lord.

The national inquiry is examining how the police and the YMCA responded to allegations that the childcare worker was abusing boys in his care.

The YMCA's policies on staff recruitment and supervision are also being examined.

Several mothers gave evidence today about how Jonathan Lord groomed their children and families.

Emily Bourke has the story, and a warning that her report contains some information that people may find distressing.

EMILY BOURKE: Until he was arrested for child sex offences in October 2011, Jonathan Lord was a popular and exceptional childcare worker in the Sydney suburb of Caringbah.

But how he came to be employed by the YMCA is now under intense scrutiny by the royal commission.

In the middle of 2009, Jonathan Lord was dismissed from a YMCA camp in the United States where he'd been working as a camp counsellor.

Lord was sacked for questionable behaviour with an 8-year-old boy at the camp, and he returned to Australia. But that detail wasn't shared with his next employer just a month later.

In opening remarks at the royal commission today, senior counsel assisting, Gail Furness, detailed the information contained in Jonathan Lord's resume.

GAIL FURNESS: And that included the following description of his career ambitions, I quote: "To work with kids and help them to experience life, love and friendships in an environment where there are no walls or boundaries."

He also stated in his resume: "This year I flew to America to work at a summer camp as a cabin counsellor in Virginia. Sadly I had to come home early because of a personal family matter."

EMILY BOURKE: The inquiry is examining the recruitment, training and supervision of YMCA staff, and how the YMCA and police responded when allegations were first raised.

But it's also examining how Jonathan Lord came to be so close to children and their families through his position at the YMCA's before and after school programs, the holiday programs, and eventually as a trusted babysitter.

One mother, known as A-N, told the commission her son was abused every Saturday for 10 months while he was babysat by Jonathan Lord.

MOTHER A-N: My whole world just fell apart. He has a rug that he calls Ruggy. He put Ruggy over his head and said: "I don't want to talk about this." I asked him why he hadn't told me, and he said: "Because I didn't think you'd believe me."

I think that he saw that I liked Jonathan and thought that he might get in trouble or make me upset if he said anything.

EMILY BOURKE: The same mother detailed how police responded.

MOTHER A-N: I went to the watch house counter at Cronulla police station and said words to the effect "I want to report a crime." They didn't even take me to an interview room. I stood in the front of the police station at the watch house counter for about 40 minutes.

The police officer behind the desk took five calls while I was waiting there. Finally, the young constable said to me "I'll have to get your details and give you a call you back." I left the police station.

EMILY BOURKE: Another victim's mother, known as A-T, explained to Gail Furness how Jonathan Lord drove her son around and gave him treats.

MOTHER A-T: On the first occasion I spoke to him he just said he was very nice. Just gone out of his way to do nice things, and he just said sometimes he'd stop and buy us chips, which confused me, because I wasn't sure how the bus would stop and just Jonathan Lord would just buy my child chips.

GAIL FURNESS: What did you understand at that time about the policies in place at the YMCA in respect of excursions?

MOTHER A-T: I understood that all the children and all the workers would go in one bus. I'd never been told or asked permission otherwise.

GAIL FURNESS: What are you referring to?

MOTHER A-T: YMCA never asked my permission for my child to travel in a car, separate to the main bus.

EMILY BOURKE: Another mother, known as A-S, painted a picture of how the abuse had affected her son.

MOTHER A-S: He wouldn't kiss, cuddle or handshake. This affected his relationships with his father and his grandparents. Became increasingly anxious and clingy with me; I was the only person who could get close to him. He would come to our bedroom six times in a night. And in the end, he would just climb into bed and would just want to hold my hand.

EMILY BOURKE: Another mother, A-Z, told the inquiry she believed the YMCA could have done more.

MOTHER A-Z: Whilst our son is not in the same situation as some of the other little boys in this case (emotionally) he does remember clearly what's happened to him. And as parents we don't know what impact this can have in the future.

On reflection I have often wondered how it was that Jonathan Lord came to be working with children or whether his employer had run a thorough background check or checked his references. I'm not certain the YMCA handled the issues as well as they could.

EMILY BOURKE: The lawyer representing the YMCA at the royal commission is Gregory Sirtes.

GREGORY SIRTES: That Jonathan Lord was able to infiltrate an organisation with industry leading practices and win the trust of co-workers and parents, demonstrates the critical need for the YMCA and all organisations that work with children to improve their focus on training staff to identify grooming behaviour.

Despite its comprehensive child protection policies and practice, the YMCA New South Wales acknowledges its staff in the Caringbah region were not appropriately trained to identify the signs of Lord's grooming behaviour.

DAVID MARK: Counsel for the YMCA, Gregory Sirtes. Emily Bourke was the reporter.