Jonathan Lord went to the U.S. under the Camp America scheme whereby young Australians work in the Summer Camp system there for a short time. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard that Lord, convicted last year for abusing children at a YMCA-run childcare center, was sent home by the organisation under a cloud, but that the YMCA here did not check on this part of his employment history before appointing him to the position in Sydney.
YMCA New South Wales state chief executive, Phillip Hare, told a media source that he was “devastated we did not identify the red flags in Lord’s CV that would cause us to do further reference checking.”
Lord had been a camp counselor at the YMCA Camp Silver Beach in Jamesville, Virginia in the U.S. He had been discovered in a darkened cabin, emerging from the bathroom with an eight-year old boy. The information was recorded on a “situation log”, which was available to Camp America officials through its data base. It referred to Lord’s “questionable behaviour”.
Ms. Erin Turner, the outbound manager for the Sydney-based Camp America organisation in Australia, gave evidence to the enquiry that Lord’s attitudes should have raised a “red flag”. Specifically, Ms. Turner mentioned Lord’s statement on his application to the YMCA that he wanted to “work with kids and help them to experience life, love and friendships in an environment where there are no walls and boundaries”. She said that there were, indeed, walls and boundaries.
Because of her recent extensive child protection training with Camp America, as well as other training in her career, she would have been suspicious of Lord. Given that he had returned early from his position with the Summer Camp in Virginia, there would have been further checks, including contacting the Summer Camp officials. The YMCA did not do this.
Ms. Turner had previously worked as a child carer with the Caringbah YMCA in Sydney, the same centre where Lord worked in 2010.
For reasons unknown, the enquiry has heard, Camp America did not follow up the 2009 Lord incident involving the eight-year old boy in his care.
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TOMORROW: What the police said
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)