Policies that left teachers and principals confused about how to report sexual abuse, a lack of trust in Child Safety and police, and blame-shifting between departments were just some of the ways child sexual abuse was able to occur in Tasmanian public schools for decades.
The full independent inquiry into the Tasmanian Department of Education's responses to child sexual abuse provides in-depth detail on a litany of failures, including how teachers with allegations against them were moved to different schools.
The government only released the findings and recommendations on Tuesday, rather than the full report, which has since been released under Right to Information laws.
A spreadsheet within the department, started in 2017 and covering back to the 1960s, included 243 child complainants, 194 distinct episodes or incidents and 149 department employees who had faced complaints or investigations spanning the five decades.
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This was believed to be an underestimate, however.
All current employee cases have been reviewed and five code of conduct investigations started as a result, with two resolved.
The independent inquiry completed by Professor Stephen Smallbone and Professor Tim McCormack detailed a breakdown between government agencies - and an unwillingness to believe children - that left inadequate safeguards in place for children.
Anthony LeClerc moved between schools in North-West
The way in which paedophile teacher Anthony LeClerc was moved between schools in the state's North-West in the 1980s - even with departmental and police knowledge of allegations - was a case study in how the system was failing children.
The independent inquiry detailed how he was the principal at Grassy Primary School on King Island from 1980 to 1983, during which time concerns and complaints were raised about his conduct.
LeClerc was interviewed by police and made "relevant admissions", but the Tasmanian Police Deputy Commissioner told the state's director general of education that they would not prosecute him because the department was likely to take action instead.
But his behaviour was described as "unintentional" and that he was "severely shaken" by what was happening, before it was recommended he be moved from Grassy Primary School for professional development.
LeClerc was transferred to Nixon Street Primary School in Devonport in 1984 as a senior teacher.
His remedial program meant school staff had too much "additional work" to undertake, so it was recommended that LeClerc be transferred to a larger school to have responsibility for a grade 5 class, despite the Grassy complainants being of a similar age.
In 1986 he was transferred to Miandetta Primary School against the wishes of that school's principal. The next year, sexual abuse allegations against LeClerc were raised at Miandetta, but police said there was insufficient evidence.
He was transferred to Ulverstone Primary School in 1987, and then Burnie High School the same year despite "strong protestations" from the principal.
For the third time, Tasmania Police had received complaints about sexual abuse by LeClerc. Later in 1987 he was given a position in the department's regional office in Burnie.
In 1988 the department found he should not hold a teaching position, but he was then transferred to Hobart Technical College. He accepted redundancy in 1996.
LeClerc was ultimately jailed for six years in 2014 for the abuse of 14 children.
Blame shifting, unwillingness to share information
The independent inquiry found that "an unwillingness to share information" had allowed perpetrators to move between government departments.
The majority of Education Department staff also outlined concerns about a lack of communication and information sharing between government and non-government organisations over allegations of child sexual abuse.
The Education Department would only engage Tasmania Police once the department had suspended and investigated the employee themselves.
The relationship between the department and police also varied upon the town or region, including a "disturbing lack of communication".
There was also mistrust in Child Safety Services.
"An all-too-common refrain in our consultations was that Child Safety Service had not actioned or followed up any previous reports and schools were questioning why they would bother to continue making reports," the inquiry report read.
Mandatory reporting obligations were also creating confusion for teachers, according to the report.
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"We heard that many graduate teachers hold concerns about making a mandatory report as they do not want to be perceived as a trouble-maker in the early years of their career or potentially damage a colleague's family and career," the report reads.
"One example provided to us described that when a graduate teacher made a report to their principal, the principal informed the teacher that the school no longer reported to Child Safety Services as CSS had not actioned or followed up any of the school's previous reports."
It had also created a culture between government agencies of "I've told you, now it's your problem", the report stated.
'Confused' and 'crowded' policies for department
During the independent inquiry, witnesses described the Education Department's policy environment as "confused" and "crowded", and that staff were "dying by policy".
"We heard of problems for DoE staff not being clear about how to obtain assistance when a relevant concern arises or an incident of abuse occurs," the report reads.
"DoE operates a system described as 'tiers of support', but staff are often uncertain of which tier of support to contact, when to contact them, and who exactly they should call."
A recent example showed how a school principal followed a flowchart in responding to a "very difficult incident" which said to call CSS first. The principal then believed CSS would contact police, but it was up to the principal, adding "significant pressure" to their role.
While the department now has numerous policy documents for "student safeguarding", they mainly centre on adult-student relationships, with limited guidance on student-student issues.
There were also few policies on preventing sexual abuse to begin with, instead focusing on responding.
Another finding from the report was how school support staff struggled to cope with demand.
"Most of the schools purchased additional time for school support staff from their general school budgets, but still do not have anywhere near the availability of professional support staff to keep up with student demand," the report reads.
"To DoE's credit, it has attempted to address this chronic shortage of student support staff with the deployment of Student Wellbeing Teams."
The independent inquiry also commented on how principals are taking a proactive approach to provider safer schools.
Response so far, with Commission of Inquiry ongoing
The report found 41 currently serving Education Department employees had "record of concern", 21 of which were assessed as needing more detail.
Education Minister Sarah Courtney said these were all reviewed after the report was provided to the government in July, with majority found to have been "properly" investigated already and allegations were unsubstantiated.
Five were further investigated, two of which have concluded without a breach of the code of conduct. Three are ongoing, with the staff stood down in the meantime.
Ms Courtney provided further detail in Parliament on Thursday.
"A number of relief employees have been identified as being the subject of allegations relating to potential child sex abuse, and they have been advised that they will not be able to return to work for the department in any capacity unless they wish to be subject to an independent investigation," she said.
The department has set up an Office of Safeguarding Children, which Ms Courtney said would be the main vehicle to enact all 21 recommendations from the independent inquiry's report.
- Sexual Assault Support Service: 1800 697 877
- Respect helpline: 1800 737 732
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
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