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The Order in Council that established the Board of Inquiry under section 53(1) of the Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic) recognised:

  • ‘All forms of child sexual abuse are a gross violation’ of a child’s right to protection under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic).1
  • ‘All government school staff have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to protect children in their care from harm’.2
  • ‘[S]ome government schools have failed to protect children attending government schools from child sexual abuse’.3

Relevantly to the work of this Board of Inquiry, the Order in Council acknowledged the existence of allegations that multiple employees had sexually abused multiple victim-survivors at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1960s and 1970s, and allegations that the same employees had sexually abused students at other government schools.

It was the egregious nature of these allegations that, as described in the Order in Council, led the Victorian Government to establish the Board of Inquiry. The Board of Inquiry’s work, pursuant to the Terms of Reference, was to have four main strands: the experiences of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse by relevant employees at Beaumaris Primary School and certain other government schools; the response of the Department of Education at the time; appropriate ways to support healing for victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members; and whether there are effective support services for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools.

Following its establishment on 28 June 2023, the Board of Inquiry operated at pace and with intensity for over seven months. The Board of Inquiry’s report spans six Parts and offers nine recommendations.

This Part of the report is an introduction to the Board of Inquiry’s work and operations. It describes the background and context that led to the formation of the Board of Inquiry, and outlines the considerations and choices that shaped its approach.

This Part has four chapters:

  • Chapter 1, Establishment and approach(opens in a new window), provides an overview of how the Board of Inquiry came to be and how it chose to conduct its work. It affirms that the Board of Inquiry considered the needs, preferences and voices of victim-survivors to be central to its approach, while at the same time complying with its procedural fairness obligations.
  • Chapter 2, Operations(opens in a new window), outlines how the Board of Inquiry established its organisational structure, governance and operating processes so that it could run effectively and with integrity.
  • Chapter 3, Scope and interpretation(opens in a new window), describes how the Board of Inquiry interpreted its Terms of Reference and what decisions it made to determine whether information was within scope. It also sets out some of the challenges and complexities involved in working within the Terms of Reference.
  • Chapter 4, About the report(opens in a new window), explains how to navigate this report. It also outlines how the Board of Inquiry intends its findings and recommendations to be interpreted and applied.

The Board of Inquiry listened to the voices and perspectives of over 300 members of the community who came forward to share their views, experiences and perspectives of historical child sexual abuse.

In addition to telling their deeply personal stories of child sexual abuse, victim-survivors generously shared their thoughts and points of view about their personal healing journey, including in relation to support services available to them. The Board of Inquiry also heard from secondary victims, service providers and advocacy organisations, experts and academics, legal firms and affected community members who shared their own stories, insights and expertise.

The Board of Inquiry’s operating procedures and structures all supported this comprehensive program of engagement, and the Board of Inquiry took enormous care to ensure it was sensitive to participants’ needs. The Board of Inquiry’s processes, described in Chapter 1(opens in a new window) and associated appendices, may assist future inquiries and royal commissions that engage with people who have experienced trauma.

At the same time, the Board of Inquiry was conscious of the need to conduct its work in accordance with its obligations of procedural fairness. What this involved, and how concerns raised through procedural fairness processes were addressed, are set out in Chapter 1(opens in a new window).

This Part also includes a dedicated chapter, Chapter 3(opens in a new window), which explains the scope of the Board of Inquiry and the decisions made in relation to its Terms of Reference. The Board of Inquiry’s interpretation of the Terms of Reference played an important role in driving how it approached its work. The same Chapter also discusses how the Board of Inquiry navigated certain challenging issues in relation to its scope.

The Part concludes with a detailed overview of how this report should be read and understood.

The Board of Inquiry has carefully chosen the language used in this report to ensure that it conveys its views and arguments meaningfully, and that policy makers are able to interpret them easily for implementation and other purposes.

The Board of Inquiry has created a public record that is intended to endure — offering ongoing meaning to those who contributed and extending the possibility of closure for some. In doing so, the Board of Inquiry has sought to adopt the highest standards of transparency, integrity and independence. The Board of Inquiry hopes it has proven that smaller, time-limited inquiries — such as this one — can achieve ambitious goals. The Board of Inquiry took seriously its obligation to educate the community, support healing through its processes and contribute to a robust reform agenda.

This Board of Inquiry acknowledges its privilege in being trusted to examine a dark chapter in the history of government schools in Victoria. Witnessing the strength and resolve of victim-survivors and secondary victims profoundly moved and inspired every staff member. The experiences shared with the Board of Inquiry under-score their resilience and unwavering hope for a better future. Their motivation — being to protect other children from child sexual abuse — was palpable and humbling.