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Student Safeguards Must be in Place by New School Year

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Tags: Child Safety, Children and Young People, Commission of Inquiry

Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader and Education spokesperson

Tasmanian parents need greater reassurance that their children are safe in the state’s public school system.

The lack of transparency demonstrated by the Gutwein Government over the Inquiry in to the Department of Education’s responses to child sexual abuse has done nothing to foster trust.

Professors Stephen Smallbone and Tim McCormack’s full report of the inquiry in to sexual abuse in the State’s public school system was received by government in June - nearly five months ago.  It was released through Right to Information, on the same day the Education Minister tabled a summary document. 

The report details a culture of cover up within education in Tasmania. The Government does little to reassure Tasmanians that cultural change is underway by attempting to hide details of the report.

When scrutinised by opposition parties in Parliament this morning, Minister Courtney claimed the government has been transparent. That would be more believable had they not sat on the report for five months before suddenly tabling a summary document in Parliament earlier on the same day that the full report was released through the statutory Right to Information process. 

The report revealed “some record of concern” about more than 40 current employees, including at least three principals, with half potentially requiring further investigation. Perhaps of even greater concern, the Department has no way of knowing whether or not relief teachers have red flags against their name. 

This would have been distressing news to wake up to for any parent sending their kids off to school this morning. 

In the government’s response to the report’s recommendations, we are told many will take more than a year to implement. Those recommendations were made by Professors Smallbone and McCormack to fix serious issues identified with the safety of children and young people in schools.  Their implementation is urgent to keep children safe.

Minister Courtney was unable to explain why their implementing safeguards will take so long.  

Tasmanian parents need to know students are as safe as possible in public schools.  Minister Courtney must explain to them why all the systems and safeguards for students won’t be in place by the start of the 2022 school year.