Image: Lord’s boss, Jacqui Barnat (Image source: Sydney Morning Herald)
The YMCA official who recruited convicted paedophile, Jonathan Lord, has coolly adhered to the line that she did everything correctly, and that her inconsistent evidence was only given “to the best of her knowledge”, and was not blatantly lying.
Ms. Jacqui Barnat (pictured above) had changed her answers to several questions between a private hearing last month, and the formal hearings this month. She had originally told the enquiry she did not engage in private baby-sitting for the YMCA children, but later confirmed she did, indeed, baby-sit for two families in 2009. Lord had done the same, even though it was against the rules for the YMCA, and was not picked up by Ms. Barnat, his supervisor.
She also changed her earlier evidence that she was not aware that other staff were baby-sitting the children. Clearly, if the boss is doing it, the staff will think they, too, can do it, in any employment situation.
Ms. Barnat also confirmed she had changed her story about working with children checks. She now agrees that some staff began work before checks were completed. She had previously justified this on the basis that the YMCA’s “Safeguarding Children and Young People” policy was not in place in 2009. She told the enquiry that “Upon reflection, I don’t believe the policy was still current in 2009, because from memory other policies were in place.”
When this discrepancy was pointed out to her by Counsel Assisting, Gail “Snow White” Furness (see previous posting), Ms. Barnat said that she could “not recall her earlier evidence.” She said that she had “a recollection of a policy in force in 2009 and I cannot recall the name … I think I did try to find it. I have not been able to find that policy.” She could not identify what other policy was in place.
The enquiry put several questions to Ms. Barnat to probe why she changed her evidence, and in particular, if senior management or lawyers had discussed these issues with her. When asked if she had discussed this policy with anyone at the YMCA in the past month and its application to her work she solidly said “no”.
When Ms Furness asked her what had occurred that made her now say that the policy did not apply to her work in 2009, and asked if it “Was it assisted by any person or you looking at any other document?”
Ms Barnat did not reply. Ms. Barnat later said she might have instigated a conversation with the YMCA’s business service manager, Irene Minos.
In answer to questioning by commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan, Ms Barnat said she was reviewing the content of the policy after her private evidence and that is how she recalled the 2006 policy was not in place. “Upon reflection, I just tried to fit the dates,” she replied. “When you made those answers you knew they were not correct, didn’t you”, chair of the commission Justice Peter McClellan intervened.
“No, I answered to the best of my understanding at the time,” Ms Barnat responded.
Questioning concerning her actions in employing, and supervising, Lord revealed either gross incompetence or a contemptuous attitude to the regulations, or both.
She agreed that Lord’s appointment contravened state law because he had not cleared a working with children check. She acknowledged that Lord did not have any qualifications, but claimed, by way of justification, that Lord’s lack of qualifications was “not uncommon” for someone starting out in childcare.
She further admitted that she had not followed proper recruiting procedure. She did not investigate Lord’s previous employment. The only check she made was by a telephone call to Lord’s stepfather. This check was made at Lord’s suggestion, and Ms. Barnat claimed that she did not know of the family relationship, at the time.
Ms Barnat said she had not been aware that Lord’s behaviour with boys at the centres she supervised had contravened YMCA policy. This behaviour included sitting boys on his lap, letting them use his mobile phone, having a photo of one of them as his screen-saver and privately babysitting them.
Apparently, according to Ms. Barnat, YMCA senior management had full confidence in her actions.
Ms Barnat was asked whether she thought her recruitment actions were satisfactory, given what she now knew. “I believe I conducted them to the best of my ability. That is correct”, she replied. “Does that give you pause to reflect upon the quality of your supervision of him?” she was asked. “No it doesn’t,” Ms Barnat replied.
She said her YMCA managers had never criticized her for her recruitment or supervision of Lord. “So the message you have received from management is that you did everything you could have done?” Ms. Barnat was asked, to which she relied “That is correct.”
YMCA official Phillip Hare (see previous posting) must have approved of Ms. Barnat’s actions, because she has received a major promotion since then.
Read more here:
TOMORROW: What senior management said
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)