Why is this Inquiry happening?
The Victorian Government has acknowledged that there was child sexual abuse involving a number of staff at Beaumaris Primary School during the 1960s and 1970s, and that these staff worked and allegedly perpetrated abuse in other government schools.
The Inquiry gives victim-survivors the opportunity to put their experiences on the public record. In doing so we seek to support the process of healing for everyone affected by this abuse, and to develop a shared understanding of the impact of the abuse among Victorians.
Why is the Inquiry only focused on Beaumaris Primary?
The Inquiry’s focus is determined by its terms of reference. The Inquiry will look at historical child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School and at other Victorian government schools where relevant staff from Beaumaris Primary School also worked and allegedly perpetrated abuse.
What is meant by ‘certain other government schools’?
Certain other government schools refers to other Victorian government schools where relevant staff from Beaumaris Primary School also worked and allegedly perpetrated child sexual abuse.
Currently we understand 24 Victorian government schools are within the scope of our terms of reference and more may be identified as we progress our work. A full list of known schools can be found on the Our focus page.
We will update this list promptly in the event more schools are identified.
Will the Inquiry look at abuse that has occurred in all government schools?
The Inquiry is examining historical child sexual abuse by relevant staff from Beaumaris Primary School, including where they worked and alleged perpetrated abuse at certain other government schools. The Inquiry will consider all information that it receives and determine how it is relevant to its terms of reference.
What is the significance of selecting 1999 as the cut-off date?
This term “historical child sexual abuse” is defined in our terms of reference to mean sexual abuse of a child in a government school by a staff member employed by the Department of Education in a government school, where that abuse occurred prior to 31 December 1999.
This is the definition that we understand is used by the Department of Education.
Will the Inquiry turn away victim-survivors not in scope of its Terms of Reference?
We encourage anyone who thinks they might have relevant experiences or information to contact the Inquiry.
The Inquiry is committed to offering a safe and meaningful environment for engagement, and understands how difficult it can be for victim-survivors to come forward. While we are required to operate within our terms of reference, we will assist other victim-survivors of child sexual abuse to access the services and supports they might need.
Can victim-survivors who have previously been through civil proceedings and signed confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements speak to the Inquiry?
Yes, the Department of Education has assured us that victim-survivors who have signed confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements with the Department as part of any settlement of child sexual abuse claims are able to freely speak to the Inquiry.
How is the Inquiry ensuring the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors?
The Inquiry intends to conduct a thorough examination of all information placed before it. We are very aware of and sensitive to the fact that there are current criminal and civil proceedings underway and we do not want our Inquiry to prejudice those proceedings.
We will ensure that we take into consideration any such proceedings so that this Inquiry can do its work without prejudicing those processes and any matters currently before the courts.
How is the Inquiry ensuring that victim-survivors testimony does not prejudice other criminal or civil proceedings?
The Inquiry intends to conduct a thorough examination of all information placed before it. We are very aware of and sensitive to the fact that there are current criminal and civil proceedings underway and that information relevant to those involved may arise during the course of the Inquiry.
We will ensure that we take into consideration any such proceedings so that this Inquiry can do its job without prejudicing those processes and any matters currently before the courts.
When will the report become available?
The Inquiry must deliver its report by 28 February 2024. The Victorian Government will provide further information about any release of the report publicly following this step.
How did the submission process work?
Submissions were provided to the Inquiry via a form on our website or by post. The submissions process was open from Thursday 7 September 2023 until Friday 15 December 2023.
Submissions could take the form of text, audio, images, video or other document formats.
Who was able to make a submission?
Submissions were open to any interested member of the public. This included, but was not limited to:
- secondary victim-survivors (such as partners, children, parents, siblings and extended family)
- members of affected communities.
What is a private session?
The Inquiry held private sessions with some victim-survivors to listen to and learn from their experiences.
Private sessions provided a way to engage with the Inquiry and share deeply personal experiences in a safe, private and trauma-informed environment.
The information shared in private sessions will be used to inform the Inquiry’s understanding of the relevant issues and its ongoing work.
Individuals could choose whether the information provided in the private sessions would be treated as public, anonymous or confidential.
The final day for private sessions was Friday 15 December 2023.
What is a public hearing?
Public hearings are an opportunity for witnesses to provide evidence to the Inquiry under oath or affirmation. Public hearings are a formal setting, where evidence is presented publicly and can be examined and tested.
The purpose and structure of public hearings depends on the focus of the hearing. For example, some public hearings may involve victim-survivors and secondary victims sharing their experiences, while other may involve the State of Victoria and expert witnesses answering questions.
There are certain legal requirements related to public hearings that are outlined in Practice Direction No. 5: Public Hearings, which can be viewed on the Practice directions and guidelines page.
How can I stay up to date if I miss a public hearing?
You can read the transcripts and available witness statements on our Public hearings page.
Is an Inquiry the same as a Royal Commission?
A Board of Inquiry and a Royal Commission are similar, but they are not the same.
They are similar in that:
- both have ‘Terms of Reference’ which set out the scope of the inquiry and what they must cover in their report;
- both have powers to obtain documents and information from individuals or organisations, including the Victorian government;
- both can require someone to be a witness;
- if someone is required to give evidence before a Royal Commission or a Board of Inquiry, and they do not comply with that requirement, in some circumstances they can be charged with a criminal offence. If someone knowingly makes a false or misleading statement, they can also be charged with an offence.
Some of the differences between a Royal Commission and a Board of Inquiry are that:
- an Inquiry cannot force someone to disclose confidential communications between that person and their lawyer;
- in an Inquiry, a person can refuse to answer a question if they think answering it might tend to incriminate them or make them liable to a penalty; and
- an Inquiry cannot obtain search warrants and seize documents.
What will happen to the information I give to an Inquiry?
The Inquiry can use the information you provide to inform its work and ultimately its findings and recommendations. The Inquiry may publish the information you give it in its report.
If you don’t want your information to be made public, you can ask for the information to be treated confidentially or anonymously. You can also ask the Inquiry to restrict its publication. Not all information can be restricted: it may depend on the nature of the information and the reasons why you want it to be restricted. If you want your information to be restricted then you should raise that issue with the Inquiry when you provide your information.
The Board’s report will be delivered to the Governor. The Governor will then give the report to the Premier.
The Premier has 30 days to table the report in the Parliament to make it public. There may be reasons as to why the Premier does not do that. If that is the case, the Premier must make a statement of those reasons.
What if I don’t want my identity revealed?
In some circumstances, the Inquiry can accept information from anonymous sources. The Inquiry can also accept information on a confidential basis.
If you wish to provide information to the Inquiry on a confidential basis, the Inquiry will not publish your information or disclose your identity. It will only use the information to inform its work.
If you wish to provide information to the Inquiry on an anonymous basis, the Inquiry will generally refer to you using a pseudonym (a made up name) and not publish information which may identify you.
The Inquiry may be legally required to disclose some information or if it identifies a risk to the safety, health or wellbeing of someone, for example a child at risk of abuse.
If the information you give is going to be used to make adverse findings against another person, the Inquiry is required to disclose that information to that other person so that they can respond. This might include disclosing your identity.
Can the Inquiry force a person to give evidence?
Generally, the Inquiry will discuss with a victim-survivor or secondary victim if they wish to give evidence and be guided by their preferences.
Otherwise, the Inquiry might decide that it needs a person (for example, a former staff member) to give evidence and might need to disclose that person’s identity as part of that process.
If the Inquiry requires you to give evidence or appear as a witness:
- you must comply with that request;
- you are entitled to refuse to give any evidence that might tend to incriminate you or subject you to a civil penalty; and
- you may be able to apply to the Inquiry for a restricted publication order to restrict publication of your identity or of the information that you give to the Inquiry. This is something you should discuss with your lawyer or with the Inquiry's lawyers after you receive notice that you are required to give evidence.
I am concerned about negative consequences for me if I give information or evidence.
The Inquiries Act 2014 contains certain protections for those who provide information to a Board of Inquiry. Those protections include:
- protection from being sued because of the information or evidence a witness gives;
- the information cannot be used against a witness in other proceedings (subject to limited exceptions)
- others cannot hinder or obstruct a witness from participating in the Inquiry’s proceedings; and
- protection from detrimental action (including dismissal) from an employer because of information an employee gives to the Inquiry.
More information about these protections can be viewed on this page.
If you are concerned about providing information to the Inquiry, please speak to a lawyer. The Inquiry cannot give you legal advice.