The former YMCA Child Protection and Compliance Manager, Catharine Clements, has given evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Ms. Clements was dismissed from her position last year, after only four months in the job, shortly after documenting problems in the organisation.
She had compiled a list of “key constraints to implementing child protection” in the organisation in November 2012. These included that relevant policies “appear little used and require updating” and “problems with basic administration” including that an attempt to check if all staff had the Working With Children Check remained incomplete after over a year. At the time of her dismissal, over 400 staff had not completed the checks.
“Other red flags are that staff are told what they are to do, not asked, ‘no questions allowed’; it is unclear how staff can raise concerns,” her report stated. She went on to say that “There appears to be significant levels of bullying and concomitant levels of personal distress; the level of acceptance that ‘this is the way it is’ and that to raise concerns is to risk your job.”
Ms Clements told the enquiry that there was an “unspoken anxiety” amongst staff about raising issues, and “they didn’t feel they were supported”. When asked about whether child protection was at the forefront of priorities for YMCA staff, she responded that “the policies were there, but the policies weren’t in the staff mind”.
She told the enquiry that she was given no office, no dedicated desk, received no training and went 10 weeks without meeting her direct manager face to face. Liam Whitley, YMCA general manager of children’s services, told the commission Ms Clements had a two-month “orientation period” with the organisation, although she disputed this. He said that part of the reason for her dismissal was not completing accreditation requirements.
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Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)