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Parents 'kept in the dark' when YMCA worker a -

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ELEANOR HALL: To Sydney now and as the Royal Commission into child abuse today, a parent gave evidence about hitting a brick wall as she tried to find information about whether children were safe or had been abused by a paedophile.

The national inquiry is looking at the case of former YMCA childcare worker Jonathan Lord, who's now in jail for assaulting 12 boys in his care between 2009 and 2011.

The commission is examining how the YMCA and police responded to the initial allegations.

Emily Bourke has been monitoring the hearings and she joins us now.

Emily, we heard from mothers of some victims earlier this week. What was the evidence today?

EMILY BOURKE: Eleanor, today we heard from a mother known as AW, and her daughter was in a crèche run by the YMCA south of Sydney. And as soon as she became aware of the allegations that a YMCA childcare worker had assaulted children, she was in a desperate scramble for information.

She contacted a number of agencies, the Department of Community Services, the ombudsman, the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People, the National Childcare Accreditation Council to find out what the regulations were. And as she discovered that there was a regulation black hole around before and after childcare, after school childcare. And at this time it was late 2011 so as she discovered there was very little oversight of this particular segment of the industry at that time.

Now AW for personal reasons was obviously keen to find out whether her child had been in the care of Jonathan Lord and this morning she described the shock and confusion among parents.

AW: Even though my daughter had not disclosed, I wasn't going to sit back and wait until she did. I really wanted to find some sort of direction and professional help to help me work out whether she had been abused, and that meant you know, who did I go to to get this information.

There was no, there was nothing. We were told 15 days later as to how to ask questions about abuse, but how can any parent sit around for 15 days and wonder. We worried about it for some time and some sort of direction would have been good and not just good but it was necessary, it was an emergency.

ELEANOR HALL: So emotional evidence there from that mother.

Emily, does her evidence back up evidence from earlier in the week?

EMILY BOURKE: Certainly it adds to the evidence from YMCA staff. Yesterday we heard from some of the employees at the YMCA in the Caringbah area and they told the Royal Commission that they were called to a meeting and asked to sign confidentiality agreements and not to tell parents anything, and that if parents asked about Jonathan Lord to tell them that he was on annual leave.

Staff from the YMCA have been highly critical of the way they were treated by management. And in the evidence today it was discovered that some of the YMCA staff were told that because, well they believed that because they had signed confidentiality agreements, that they couldn't even speak to police.

ELEANOR HALL: And I understand that this witness had some suggestions on how to better protect children. What were they?

EMILY BOURKE: Well, what emerged yesterday was that YMCA childcare workers had very limited understanding of childcare policies and practices and in fact many of them routinely broke the policies because they weren't aware of them. And evidence to the commission has been that these dense policies, very thick policies, were merely perused. And after the Jonathan Lord allegation surfaced, workers were called to a meeting. At the end of that meeting they spent just a few minutes reading two policy documents and signing off on them, but several witnesses yesterday admitted that they didn't even understand them. They couldn't tell the difference between the two of them, that they were highly complex and they hadn't really retained the information.

Now witness AW this morning, who's also a teacher, one with 18 years experience, admitted she'd never had child protection training and these were her suggestions.

AW: Child protection training is just as important as first aid training. First aid training is compulsory for all childcare workers and teachers and the difference between first aid training and child protection training is that first aid training is taught and assessed. Child protection training doesn't seem to be examined.

I think that every childcare worker should gain child protection knowledge annually and be assessed on that just like a first aid certificate, so they could obtain a child protection certificate annually in order to be able to work.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's witness AW at the Royal Commission in Sydney today. Our reporter covering the commission, Emily Bourke.