The Royal Commission Announces Public Hearings (Or: Who Let This Happen?)


Image: Steven Larkins

The Australian Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has announced its first public hearings will commence on 16th September, in Sydney. It will consider the case of convicted paedophile, Steven Larkins (pictured above), with a particular focus on why he was able to operate for at least 20 years, despite knowledge of his tendencies by Scouts Australia, during his time with the organisation.

[The head of Scouts Australia is Governor-General, Quentin Bryce (see previous posting).]

It will also consider the role played by government agencies, including the NSW government’s Department of Community Services, which has responsibility for children taken into the care of the State. This particularly involves the “Working With Children” checks, which have already been the subject of calls for submissions by the Royal Commission.

The hearings are expected to run for about one week. People who want to have leave to appear at the hearings, have until 26th. August to make a written application via the Royal Commission’s web-site.

Larkins began his offending career with Scouts Australia in the 1990s (see previous posting at He then went on to head the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services, which operates in the Newcastle area. The service receives millions in NSW government grants to foster “at-risk” and “troubled” aboriginal youth. This system was meant to replace the old institutional care system for such youth (see previous postings on Kinchela and Cootamundra children’s homes).

With regards to the Scouts Australia connection, Larkins pleaded guilty last year to committing indecent acts against a boy aged 11 in 1992 and another boy aged 12 in 1997, but only received good behaviour bonds. One of these incidents had been investigated by police in the 1990s but no charges were laid. Australian Scouting authorities were alerted to Larkins’ suspected paedophile behaviour in the early to mid-1990s.

Because of the scouts problem, Larkins was ineligible to work with children. This week, the NSW Department of Community Services admitted it failed to follow standard procedure and tell the board or any other managers at the Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services (HACS) of its adverse findings. Instead, Larkins alone was informed of his classification, which allowed him to forge a document showing he had obtained clearance to work unsupervised with children, and which was placed in his personnel file.

Larkins was charged, convicted and sentenced to 10 months prison for this fraud.

A spokeswoman for the Department said: ”Standard procedure was to send correspondence on the working with children check to the employer and, where the chief executive officer was the applicant, to the board. This was not done in this case. Community Services acknowledges and regrets this error.” Larkins had overseen $5 million in NSW taxpayer funding and was paid a base salary of $86,000 p.a.

Larkins was also chairman of the Melbourne-based Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAIIC), which is the peak national body for Aboriginal child protection services. At the time, the organisation received a $3 million federal grant. Federal Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, when awarding the grant, said that “SNAICC is an important initiative that provides the evidence-base for expanding Indigenous children’s life chances.”

SNAICC is a member of the Coalition of Organisations Committed to the Safety and Wellbeing of Australia’s Children, which is helping the Australian Government to develop the National Child Protection Framework. At the SNAIIC-sponsored National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day, Larkins announced the theme was “Good Child Protection: We Do It Together.” Larkins said his organisation, Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services, aimed to double the number of children it supported.

Larkins lost his positions when child pornography was found in his possession. For faking his child-protection checks, and possessing the pornography, he was sentenced to a maximum of 22 months, with the non-parole period reduced from 19 months to 15 months on appeal. The assault charges regarding the boys received a suspended sentence.

In a related matter, police are investigating the possibility of a paedophile ring associated with Larkins. This is because of paedophile foster-carer, Robert Holland, who died in Long Bay prison after being convicted of nearly 100 offences against 19 children in his care, over nearly 40 years. The children had been placed in his care by the NSW Children’s Court and the NSW State government.

Holland was found to have a uniform and ID tag from Larkins’ Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services, despite not working for it.

At the time of his arrest, Larkins had “parental responsibility” for 19 Aboriginal children. This meant that Larkins had complete control over the children, including allowing him to take them into his home alone. The NSW Department of Community Services has admitted the practice of awarding parental responsibility to an executive of a non-government organisation ”was not usual practice”, and was banned in 2009.

It is encouraging that the first issue to be considered by the Royal Commission at public hearings will be why Dracula was placed in charge of the blood-bank.

[Postscript: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox spoke at the launch of book “Unholy Trinity” by former Victorian detective Denis Ryan and author Peter Hoysted (see previous posting) yesterday.]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: The need for citizen ombudsmen

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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