Tas abuse inquiry told of disclosure risks

·2-min read

People in tight-knit, smaller communities may be less likely to disclose misconduct because of perceived implications, a Tasmanian inquiry into child sexual abuse in public institutions has been told.

The commission of inquiry, which is holding its first week of public witness hearings, is examining state government handling of abuse allegations.

A woman on Wednesday told the inquiry her concerns about her daughter's treatment by nurse James Geoffrey Griffin at the Launceston General Hospital in 2018 were "shrugged off".

Griffin was charged in 2019 with child sex offences and then took his own life.

The woman, who said Griffin touched her daughter without consent during a medical check, told the inquiry no one from the hospital followed up about a complaint she made at the time.

Another woman told the inquiry of her anguish when she read about allegations against Griffin, who she says had years earlier "groomed her whole family" and spent time with her daughter.

The inquiry was called in November 2020 in response to the allegations against Griffin and child sex abuse accusations made against Ashley Youth Detention Centre workers.

Political scientist Richard Ecclestone said while small communities have benefits, they also have risk factors.

"I don't have expertise in terms of child sexual abuse and its causes," he said on Thursday.

"(But) a working hypothesis is if you've got a small and connected professional community, perhaps few alternative sources of employment.

"You would imagine the implications of reporting or disclosing misconduct or criminal activity would be higher in that community.

"You might be in denial 'I know this person's family'. You might be less willing to disclose.

"That's a working hypothesis which I'm sure the commission will explore."

Prof Ecclestone said research showed about 30 per cent of people in Tasmania got jobs through people they know, compared to 15 per cent on mainland Australia.

Counsel assisting the commission Elizabeth Bennett SC has said the inquiry received evidence of instances in which teachers continued to work despite being accused of abuse.

Tasmania Police in 2021 issued a public apology for their handling of investigations into Griffin, revealing they received complaints about him in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.

The commission is expected to hand down a final report by May 2032. The state government has pledged to adopt all recommendations.

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