Eleven people face possible adverse findings after a comprehensive investigation into abuse at country hostels, a State-Government ordered inquiry was told today.
Counsel assisting the inquiry said that 11 people would face recommendations of adverse findings for inaction or failing to investigate allegations of decades of abuse at country hostels.
Spanning six months and involving 84 witnesses and 49 statements, the inquiry’s initial objective was to investigate how serial paedophile Dennis John McKenna was able to systemically abuse students at St Andrew’s Hostel in Katanning over 15 years.
The scope of the inquiry was widened to include State-run hostels in Northam, South Hedland and Narrogin.
McKenna was head warden at the Katanning hostel from 1975-1990 and is now serving his second stint behind bars for molesting boys in his care.
His brother and St Andrew’s colleague Neil Vincent McKenna is also now behind bars for raping a female student in 1991.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Philip Urquhart said that McKenna’s power over the hostel and small community of Katanning was done through "grooming" and it was “staggering” that he avoided serious scrutiny for so long.
“Virtually overnight he became a law unto himself within the hostel, within the hostel’s board of management and even within Katanning itself,” Mr Urquhart said.
“The control he had over the students at the hostel was all pervading.
“It would appear to be the case that in regard to Dennis McKenna his ability to avoid prosecution for so long was truly staggering and a sad indictment on those who heard the complaints about him and refused to listen and refused to believe.”
So far, adverse findings have been recommended against former Country High Schools Hostel Authority chairman Colin Philpott, parent and former hostel board member Keith Stephens, former Katanning Senior High School principal Ian Murray and parent and former hostel board chairman Alan Parks.
This morning, the inquiry was told that former government employee Elizabeth Stroud faced a recommendation of an adverse finding in relation to conflicting evidence she gave regarding the removal of youth worker Maggie Dawkins from Katanning in 1985 after Ms Dawkins reported concern over McKenna’s behaviour.
“Ms Stroud intentionally gave an account to the inquiry that incorrectly asserted that the behaviour of Ms Dawkins was the only reason for her removal from Katanning when it was in fact her complaint against Dennis McKenna that played a significant part,” Mr Urquhart said.
“It had to have been in Ms Stroud’s knowledge at the time.”
The inquiry continues today.