On 28 June 2023, the Lieutenant-Governor, on the recommendation of the Premier, established the Board of Inquiry into historical child sexual abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and certain other government schools under section 53(1) of the Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic).
In establishing the Board of Inquiry, the Victorian Government acknowledged that there were allegations of child sexual abuse involving a number of teachers at Beaumaris Primary School during the 1960s and 1970s, and that these teachers worked and allegedly perpetrated abuse in other government schools.
The Board of Inquiry was to establish an official public record of victim-survivors’ and secondary victims’ (their families, friends and supporters) experiences of child sexual abuse by “relevant employees” at Beaumaris Primary School and certain other government schools between 1960 and 1999. The Terms of Reference also required the Board of Inquiry to examine the response of the Department of Education at the time. The Board of Inquiry was also required to examine appropriate ways to support healing for victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected communities, as well as to assess the effectiveness of support services for adult victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools.
Chair of the Board of Inquiry, Kathleen Foley SC
Photo by Arsineh Houspian
Kathleen Foley SC is a Victorian barrister. Ms Foley commenced work at the Victorian Bar in 2009 and was appointed Senior Counsel in 2021. She was appointed to the Victorian Law Reform Commission in November 2020 as a part-time commissioner. During her time at the Victorian Bar, Ms Foley has served as a member of the Victorian Bar Council and as a member of the executive of both the Commercial Bar Association and the Women Barristers Association. Ms Foley’s practice at the Bar is diverse and has included work involving institutional child sexual abuse.
Prior to her admission to the Victorian Bar, Ms Foley worked as an attorney in New York and as a solicitor in Western Australia. She was also an Associate to Justice Hayne of the High Court of Australia.
In 2016 Ms Foley was awarded the Victorian Bar’s Susan Crennan AC QC award for her pro bono work.
Ms Foley holds a Master of Laws from Harvard Law School, and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Australia.
Fiona Ryan SC, Kate Stowell and Mathew Kenneally are Victorian barristers. You can read their profiles through the following links to the Victorian Bar website.
Photo by Garth Oriander
Photo by Nish Paranavitana
Photo by Garth Oriander
Order in Council
Clause 3 of the Order in Council sets out the Terms of Reference for the Board of Inquiry. These were ‘to inquire into, report on and make any recommendations considered appropriate in relation to’ the following:
a) The experiences of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse who were abused by a relevant employee at Beaumaris Primary School during the 1960s and/or 1970s;
b) The experiences of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse who were abused by a relevant employee in any other government school;
c) The response of the Department of Education in relation to the historical child sexual abuse described in clauses (3)(a) and (b) above, including the Department of Education and its officers’ state of knowledge and any actions it took or failed to take at or around the time of the abuse;
d) Appropriate ways to support healing for affected victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected communities including, for example, the form of a formal apology, memorialisation or other activities;
e) Having regard to other inquiries and reforms that have taken place since the historical child sexual abuse occurred, whether there are effective support services for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools;
f) Any other matters related to these Terms of Reference necessary to satisfactorily inquire into or address the Terms of Reference.
The Terms of Reference directed the Board of Inquiry not to inquire into:
a) The response of the State (including the Department of Education and its staff) to any complaints, legal proceedings or legal claims in relation to incidents of historical child sexual abuse in a government school, except insofar as the inquiry may establish a factual record of the state of knowledge of the Department of Education and its staff and the actions taken or not taken by the Department and its staff at or around the time of the historical child sexual abuse ...
b) Compensation and/or redress arrangements, including settlement of any civil claims, for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse.
You can read the Order In Council that defined the scope of our work via this link.
How we worked
The Order in Council set directions and limits for how the Board of Inquiry should conduct its work.
The Board of Inquiry sought to adopt a trauma-informed approach across all aspects of its work. This approach informed how we engaged with victim-survivors, which was underpinned by the values of safety, voice and choice, trustworthiness and transparency. In adopting a trauma-informed approach, the Board of Inquiry endeavoured to ensure that participation in this inquiry would not re-traumatise victim-survivors, and that all engagement supported their personal healing journeys.
With consideration of the relevant time period from 1 January 1960 to 31 December 1999, and the people who satisfied the definition of ‘relevant employee’, the Board of Inquiry identified 24 Victorian government schools that were within the scope of our Terms of Reference:
Aspendale Primary School
Emerald Primary School
Beaconsfield Upper Primary School
Hampton Primary School
Beaumaris Primary School
Kunyung Primary School
Belvedere Park Primary School
Mirboo Primary School, now Mirboo North Primary School
Bundalong South Primary School (now closed)
Moorabbin (Tucker Road) Primary School, now Tucker Road Bentleigh Primary School
Bunyip Primary School
Moorabbin West Primary School (now closed)
Chelsea Heights Primary School
Mount View Primary School
Cowes Primary School
Ormond East Primary School now McKinnon Primary School
Cranbourne Primary School
Tarraville Primary School (now closed)
Dandenong North Primary School
Tarwin Lower Primary School
Dandenong West Primary School
Warragul Primary School
Drouin South Primary School
Warragul Technical School, now Warragul Regional College.
A note on language
The Board of Inquiry recognises that language is powerful, and words have various meanings to different people.
There is no one set of definitions to describe people’s experiences of child sexual abuse. Every individual may use different words to describe what happened to them, how it has affected and continues to affect their life.
The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that the sensitive and appropriate use of language when describing child sexual abuse is important in helping people to heal. Language and words can be used to recognise, validate and empower people. If used carelessly, they can stigmatise, diminish, blame, or cause or contribute to trauma.
In line with a trauma-informed approach, the Board of Inquiry acknowledges that individuals have the right to define their identity. For some individuals, the terms ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ are perceived as existing on a continuum of recovery, while others may not identify with either of these terms.
It is the Board of Inquiry’s sincere aim to ensure that our words, engagement and actions assist people on their pathway to healing and cause no harm.