YMCA general manager of children’s services, Liam Whitley, gave evidence to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, during which, like his boss, Phillip Hare (see previous posting), he attempted to shift blame for shortcomings onto low level staff.
The Royal Commission has noted a comment by Mr Whitley that the recruitment process for Lord “should have been handled better”. “Better? The person who conducted it didn’t know the policy existed, Mr Whitley,” Counsel assisting the commission, Gail “Snow White” Furness (see previous posting) pointed out.
Mr Whitley has worked for the YMCA for the past 21 years, rising through the ranks like Mr. Hare, and would be fully acculturated to it. Therefore, it came as no surprise that he steadfastly defended the organization’s policies at the enquiry. He denied the Lord incident reflected a “complete failure” of policy and shifted the responsibility to the individual staff involved.
“They really should have felt empowered to be able to report what they had seen, as mandatory reporters,” Mr Whitley said. The Commission chairman pointed out previous evidence that most staff had complained that upper management was not particularly approachable.
Mr Whitley has previously told the enquiry that “failure” was too strong a word to describe management shortcomings, but now agreed it was an appropriate word to describe low level staff responses and the process of their reporting on Lord.
When the Lord case burst onto the scene Mr. Whitley did his duty to the YMCA, if not to parents and children. He sent a letter to parents which stated that “the highest quality procedures and practices” were in place at the centre, “creating the safest possible environment” for children. It has now been established that this was an untrue claim (see previous postings).
Parents were sent another letter when Lord was jailed, still claiming that the YMCA continued “to lead the industry” by complying with the highest child protection standards. Mr Whitley told the hearing his electronic signature was placed on the letter without him reading it, because he was on leave. “It’s not content that I sighted before the signature was applied,” he said. Obviously, the matter was not important enough to interrupt his summer holidays.
Like his boss, Phillip Hare, before him, Mr. Whitley was caught out on several untruths.
His claim that Lord was only involved with out-of-school-hours care was untrue. Lord also worked in the crèche with younger children, and parents of these children did not receive the letter from the YMCA, which other parents had received. He explained the discrepancy as merely an “omission in his knowledge.” He then went on to deny that it was his responsibility to know that Lord was working in the crèche.
Records were clearly not Mr. Whitley’s forte. The commission has already heard records at the crèche were poorly kept to the extent staff did not know who was using the service.
Yet another untruth surfaced under questioning at the enquiry. Parents were told the YMCA had organized external audits by peak bodies. This was untrue – it had not. They were also told the YMCA was complying with, and operating above, industry standards on staff qualifications. This, too, was untrue. Lord had no qualifications to work with children, and those who hired him knew it.
Mr. Whitley, overall, demonstrated that he is an ardent supporter of his organisation, but not of its clients or front-line staff.
[Postscript: An earlier posting referred to “Mr. Whitely”. It is in fact spelled as “Whitley”.]
Read more here:
TOMORROW: Ms. Nolan’s PowerPoint presentation
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)