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Safety of Children

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 19 November 2020

Tags: Launceston General Hospital, Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Child Abuse

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, Tasmanians and people everywhere who heard the podcast of Camille Bianchi when it came out starting last month and she is now up to episode 6, have been really shaken at the horrific stories of sexual abuse that occurred over an alleged 18 years at the Launceston General Hospital paediatric ward 4K.

It seems that the man, the nurse who was that abuser, we also found out subsequently had also worked at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre for a period from 2017 for about five months and at the Spirit of Tasmania.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Sorry, Dr Woodruff, can I remind members that if there is court action involved, we have to be careful here of sub judice. I ask members to be careful of what is said today on the record.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, thank you. I appreciate that which is why I have used the word 'alleged' advisedly and that man is no longer alive.

This morning, the Greens asked the minister about a separate fact that a senior staff member has been stood down at Ashley Youth Detention Centre following hundreds of allegations of abuse, one of which was an allegation of rape.

The investigation that the Government has established into what happened over an 18 year period in the paediatric ward at the LGH is manifestly inadequate. According to the podcast, comments have been alleged that written complaints were made to management in 2009, 2010 and 2017. Spoken complaints were made as early back as 2002 and 2003 by staff on the ward, to hospital management.

What has happened has been an ongoing ignoring or covering-up of information that was made in complaint forms and allegations include that reports that were written on paper prior to electronic reporting were found subsequently ripped up in a rubbish bin. The allegations are not of passive negligence or incompetence. The allegations are of a cover-up and they are for multiple people operating over nearly two decades.

It has also been alleged the electronic reports of complaints were edited and the severity of the complaints that had been made were downgraded. It is alleged that these things happened after that man, Mr Griffin, was charged for his sexual abuse of young children on the ward.

By 2019, it is pretty clear that there were heaps of people, staff who had made complaints over nearly 18 years, including a graduate nurse, about Mr Griffin and abuse that occurred to her.

The terms of reference that have been established look at policies and the systems in place at the Launceston General Hospital but they do not look at individual cases. They do not look at individual cases and they do not look at whether any ignoring or covering-up has happened of policies that were in place. They may find that a policy existed but they will not be investigating whether that policy was actively covered-up or ignored. The findings are limited specifically, it seems, to a level of finding and recommendations below what would show specific cultural cover-ups, or individual cover-ups, which is what is alleged.

Departmental staff and management are not being investigated. It looks instead with a focus at medical staff and nurses, and whether they were effective at doing their job in implementing policies that might have been in place. Staff and nurses are very concerned at the potential that they will face blame for not having reported something on their ward to a manager or to APRA when their managers were possibly discouraging them from speaking up in the first place.

As they stand, the terms of reference limit the investigations or findings to determine whether the management did stop reports. We also question why the terms of reference specifically do not allow any investigation into compensation that has been paid out in regards to the Griffin case. For example, compensation may have been paid to staff who have been on stress leave. We need to have that information.

We have to have a far wider commission of inquiry that includes not just what happened at the Launceston General Hospital, but what has happened at Ashley, what has happened at other state agencies. It is alleged that there is - and a letter was written to the Premier and shadow leaders and other members of parliament from a person whose identity cannot be mentioned, who draws the attention of the Premier and others to the improbability that that man, Mr Griffin, acted on his own. This person talks about a group of medical professionals in Launceston that have historically used medical examinations as cover for sexual abuse for children.

Two prominent members of the medical community in Launceston have been charged, convicted and sentenced for their crimes against young children, one for four years jail for sexual abuse who was a medical scientist, and another one who worked in northern schools for decades and who was also charged, convicted and sentenced to six months jail.

The concern is that there is talk of a circle of these men meeting regularly with Griffin in the Launceston General Hospital cafeteria. I stress this is talk but there is a real stench here. It is very important that we have a full commission of inquiry to thoroughly examine whether there was any possible cover-up.