Image: Phillip Hare (left)
The Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales branch of the YMCA, Phillip Hare (see previous posting) has attempted to pass responsibility onto other staff. He has finally admitted, after denials, that the YMCA’s recruitment practices were a “failure”, when appearing before the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The controversial decision, to have staff sign a confidentiality agreement on the Lord case, he has blamed on another staffer, Liam Whitley. Hare claimed the action on staff was never discussed with him, the CEO. He told the enquiry that, while he could understand that the agreements were intended to avoid contamination of evidence, he felt that Mr. Whitley’s actions were “overzealous.”
When he did find out about the confidentiality agreements, he decided they should be taken back.
“When I spoke to Liam Whitley I understood the intention, but it was poorly executed,” Mr Hare said.
Police have denied they advised the YMCA to institute such confidentiality agreements. Senior Constable Leanne Kelly told the enquiry that she did not have the power to do that, and simply asked for the contact details of witnesses. Again, all of this was the fault of Mr. Whitley, who Hare claimed had misinterpreted the police requests.
Mr. Whitley’s existence has been of further benefit to Mr. Hare. He explained to the enquiry why he had not submitted a statement to it. It was on the advice of Mr. Hare’s lawyer, who felt that the enquiry wanted Hare to answer questions about operational matters, and that Mr Whitely was in a better position to answer those questions. So. there!
Mr. Hare joined the YMCA organisation at age 21, the same as Lord. Anyone who has risen through the ranks over such as long time would, according to academic theory, be very culturally immersed in the organisation, and unable to view it objectively. The YMCA has been his life.
Previous evidence from staff indicated they were discouraged from reporting suspicions about Lord to more senior staff. Mr Hare rejected the suggestion by the enquiry that the YMCA had a cultural problem which prevented staff from reporting Lord’s breaches of child safety. He said that he did not accept staff’s evidence that they were uncomfortable with reporting upwards to their managers. Rather, he said, their friendships with Lord clouded their judgments about reporting him.
Indeed, he claimed, his only fault was not making sure staff were clear about their obligations to report child safe policy breaches. Actually, thinking about it, perhaps he felt that staff should have been more responsible about those obligations. So, there!
Mr. Hare was also not responsible for misleading letters sent to parents. These were sent through the marketing department, because “they were more articulate with words.” Did he mean that they were the better spinners?
Finally, an internal memo noted that Mr. Hare had dismissed Catherine Clements (see previous posting) as child protection manager, after only 4 months in the job, because she had “failed to make sufficient progress in the implementation of the safeguarding children program that she was recruited to.” Ms. Clements disputes Mr. Hare’s evidence to the enquiry (see previous posting).
The enquiry caught Mr. Hare out on a few untruths.
Last week, he told the hearing that “We’ve never had this happen before” and that the YMCA had “never dealt with an incident of child sexual assault within its organisation.” However, the enquiry revealed that a YMCA employee was charged with child pornography offences. There was also another case where a gym instructor at the YMCA was convicted of child sexual offences against children in his care in 1991. Mr Hare told the enquiry, that he “knew about the first case but did not know about the second one.”
Both Mr. Hare and the YMCA lawyer, Gregory Sirtes (see previous posting) had claimed that it was a “best practices” organisation and an “industry leader”. Hare admitted that the YMCA’s opening statement to the commission was “inaccurate” in claiming “there have been external audits of the YMCA that have recognized the YMCA as being at the forefront of child safety”.
Evidence before the enquiry is that YMCA was notified that it received the second lowest of four possible ratings in a Department of Education and Communities quality audit as recently as August of this year, well after the Lord case. Hare tried to defend his position by claiming that standards he had described as very good should be viewed in the light of comparison with the other child-care organisations. If that is the case, then there must be a lot of very, very bad organisations, out there, which are still in operation.
Child sexual abuse expert, Professor Stephen Smallbone of Griffith University, told the enquiry that the YMCA was “not a child-safe organisation” at the time when Lord worked there, and when Hare worked there. He said that there were “serious problems” in recruitment, screening, induction, training and supervision of staff.
Mr. Hare’s credibility appears to be in tatters. That of the YMCA will fare no better, should Mr. Hare remain in his present position.
[Postscript: “Unfortunately, YMCA feels that some media reports are dampening the critically important message that the community should be hearing about the insidious, secretive, devious and sophisticated conduct of paedophiles who seek access to children through child-care organisations.” YMCA Press-release, last week]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: What Mr. Whitely said
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)