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YMCA staff routinely broke rules on baby-sitt -

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DAVID MARK: The second day of the royal commission's inquiries into the YMCA and the convicted paedophile, Jonathan Lord, has heard that staff working with children had little awareness of child protection policies.

Jonathan Lord is serving a minimum six year jail term for abusing 12 boys in his care.

The inquiry is examining the YMCA's staff recruitment, supervision and training policies.

One staff member said she saw Lord hugging children and putting them on his lap.

She also found a photo of a child on his mobile phone, but didn't report anything to her managers.

Another staff member said other rules relating to staff-to-child ratios and baby-sitting were routinely broken.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: Childcare worker Alicia Dellaca was puzzled by her former YMCA colleague Jonathan Lord.

ALICIA DELLACA: He said to me, "I think it's bizarre that they say it's so important to build strong relationships with families and kids, yet the rules say don't let kids come close to you and don't do this and don't do that."

I said to him, "You can have a strong relationship as a role model with them without physically touching them." I remember thinking to myself, this isn't rocket science, John. Why is this even a dilemma?

EMILY BOURKE: Jonathan Lord got very close to children in YMCA programs and in their homes and now he's in jail for assaulting 12 boys.

Today the real-world workings of the YMCA's employment and child protection policies came into sharp focus at the royal commission.

Childcare worker Alicia Dellaca told the inquiry that up until the Lord allegations in October 2011, staff supervision rules were frequently broken, especially when children were being transported to the YMCA after school care perograms.

Under questioning by senior counsel Gail Furness, Ms Dellaca explained that staff also often babysat children who were in the YMCA's care.

ALICIA DELLACA: There seemed to be no restriction on this at all. I wasn't aware that the code of conduct actually stated that it was prohibited.

GAIL FURNESS: Who else babysat children to your knowledge?

ALICIA DELLACA: I was aware that Jonathan Lord babysat.

GAIL FURNESS: Now, do you understand what a code of conduct is in an employment context?

ALICIA DELLACA: I do now, yes.

GAIL FURNESS: Since when have you had that knowledge?

ALICIA DELLACA: Since the Jonathan Lord incident.

EMILY BOURKE: The royal commission is also looking at how Jonathan Lord was able to groom children, their parents and his colleagues.

DANIELLE OCKWELL: (Emotional) I feel devastated and I blame myself every day.

EMILY BOURKE: Childcare worker Danielle Ockwell regarded Lord as a close and trusted friend.

DANIELLE OCKWELL: You know he made me believe that we had this amazing centre where the children were safe and happy and he came across to parents as a lovely guy, so I just felt betrayed that he could do the things he did.

EMILY BOURKE: Under questioning, she revealed she was alarmed by Lord's behaviour towards several children whose names have been suppressed.

DANIELLE OCKWELL: "B.A is a really good kid." I said, "Yeah, he is good." And John replied "Yes, I love him." I thought that was strange and that it was something that you shouldn't say, but at the time I just thought that John was a loving and friendly guy and that was just his personality.

GAIL FURNESS: Now Ms Ockwell, you didn't tell anyone else at work, at the YMCA, about the discussion with Jonathan Lord in relation to B.A. did you?


GAIL FURNESS: You didn't tell anyone about having seen A.L. on his lap or?


GAIL FURNESS: Nor about the screensaver picture of A.F.?


GAIL FURNESS: Or that he was babysitting B.A.?


EMILY BOURKE: A third childcare worker, Michelle Bates, explained she didn't report Lord either.

MICHELLE BATES: I just didn't feel like I was in the place to say anything. I didn't - everything was so informal. Policies weren't being followed and things like that. And people were having kids on their laps and I just, I didn't think anything out of the ordinary.

GAIL FURNESS: So you weren't aware what the YMCA's specific policies were?


GAIL FURNESS: But you were aware from your TAFE course that there shouldn't be technology in the workplace?

MICHELLE BATES: That's correct.

GAIL FURNESS: That there shouldn't be unnecessary touching of children?


GAIL: FURNESS: And yet you saw Jonathan Lord doing both of those things? That's right?


GAIL FURNESS: And you didn't tell anyone?



MICHELLE BATES: I don't have an answer for you.

EMILY BOURKE: The royal commission is also examining how the YMCA responded when allegations were first raised.

Staffers told the inquiry they felt they were poorly treated. They were forced to sign confidentiality agreements, and urged to tell parents that Lord was on annual leave.

Staffer Michelle Bates again.

MICHELLE BATES: We, I would ask for group counselling; we were refused. Again, we were not allowed to speak about it amongst each other, which caused everybody and including myself a lot of stress. They didn't talk to us about anything until quite a long time after.

My overall experience with management, I can't really pinpoint one thing they did right.

EMILY BOURKE: Outside the inquiry, the CEO of YMCA New South Wales, Phillip Hare, said that when the Lord matter first came to light in October 2011, staff were on a steep learning curve.

PHILLIP HARE: We've never had an incident such as the Jonathan Lord incident happen before and we were definitely learning and we've had to reflect on how we would better support parents and staff if a terrible incident such as this was to ever happen again.

DAVID MARK: That's the CEO of YMCA New South Wales, Phillip Hare. Emily Bourke was our reporter.