Chapter 4

About the report


This report details the Board of Inquiry’s analysis, findings and recommendations in relation to its Terms of Reference. As outlined in the ‘Background’ section of the Order in Council establishing the Board of Inquiry, the Victorian Government set up the Board of Inquiry because of the egregious nature of allegations that multiple relevant employees sexually abused multiple students at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1960s and 1970s, and subsequently at certain other government schools.

The report details the experiences of victim-survivors who chose to share their stories with the Board of Inquiry, as well as the response by the Department of Education (Department) at or around the time of the alleged child sexual abuse.

It is difficult to comprehend the experiences shared by victim-survivors in this report, and to understand the Department’s response (or lack of response) at the time. Why where there no systems and policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse by teachers or other school employees? Why did so many people look the other way or (in some cases) take active steps to ‘move the problem on’ to another school? These are challenging but important lines of investigation that the Board of Inquiry has explored and addresses in this report.

The report also examines the impacts of child sexual abuse on victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members, as well as the effectiveness of existing support services for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools. It describes a variety of ways to support healing for victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members, including through a formal apology, memorialisation or other activities.1

Structure of the report

The report has six parts:

  • Preliminary material(opens in a new window), contains the official documents connected to the delivery of the report, a message from the Chair and a high-level summary of the overall report.
  • Part A, The Board of Inquiry(opens in a new window) (this Part), describes the establishment of the Board of Inquiry, how it approached its work, and important information on how it interpreted and applied the Terms of Reference.
  • Part B, Experience(opens in a new window), places children’s safety in context by describing relevant policy settings and social and cultural factors present in communities between 1960 and 1999, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, before documenting experiences of child sexual abuse and its impacts from the perspective of victim-survivors. This Part also includes 15 narratives from victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members recalling their experiences, in their own words.
  • Part C, Accountability(opens in a new window), describes the education system between 1960 and 1999, includes the narratives of four of the relevant employees examined in detail by the Board of Inquiry, and outlines various system failings by the Department at that time. It then explores grooming and barriers to disclosure experienced by victim-survivors, before describing how child safety settings have since improved within government schools.
  • Part D, Healing, support and the future(opens in a new window), describes the factors that promote recovery from child sexual abuse and the support services currently available to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools. It then explores barriers to effective support and how they could be addressed as part of an overall approach to healing. This Part includes the Board of Inquiry’s recommendations for the Victorian Government and the Department to support healing and address barriers to effective support. While these recommendations are drawn from the entirety of the Board of Inquiry’s work, they are particularly directed to the ‘healing’ and ‘support services’ aspects of the Terms of Reference.
  • Part E, Appendices(opens in a new window), contains a range of documents to assist and inform readers.

A note on language

The Board of Inquiry recognised from the outset the importance of being thoughtful and sensitive in its use of language. Different words carry different meanings or significance for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse, and careless or insensitive language can be damaging and hurtful.

The Board of Inquiry has included ‘A note on language(opens in a new window)’ in the Preliminary material(opens in a new window) of this report, which recognises this and outlines the preferred language that the Board of Inquiry has adopted, informed by victim-survivors and by research and evidence on best practice. This note recognises that not all affected people would agree with the terms and definitions chosen, but invites understanding that they have been chosen with consideration and care.

As outlined in Chapter 1, Establishment and approach(opens in a new window), sometimes the Board of Inquiry has used particular language (for example, ‘alleged perpetrator’). The use of this language, as explained in relevant sections throughout the report, is not intended to question or diminish the recollections of victim-survivors, but is to protect the integrity of any civil or criminal proceedings and is in recognition of the fact that the Board of Inquiry’s role has not been to make findings of fact about whether abuse occurred or not.

How this report should be read and understood

The Board of Inquiry’s objectives included establishing an official public record of victim-survivors’ experiences. It has approached this task by empowering and supporting victim-survivors to share their experiences and have them recorded, publicly acknowledged in hearings and published in this report. At the same time, in undertaking its work the Board of Inquiry has been mindful of its procedural fairness obligations.

Furthermore, the analysis, findings and recommendations presented in this report aim to reflect the shared responsibility of governments, institutions and the wider Victorian community in keeping children safe. The Board of Inquiry hopes to build understanding of the significant and complex impacts that child sexual abuse can have on victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members. The Board of Inquiry expects this report will reinforce a collective commitment to better protect children from harm and sexual abuse into the future.

Readers should consider the Board of Inquiry’s findings and recommendations in the context of other inquiries — including the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations — and the reforms that followed them. These inquiries made a range of recommendations relevant to improving responses to child sexual abuse in institutional settings, many of which have since been implemented or are underway. In undertaking its work, the Board of Inquiry has sought to build upon these earlier inquiries. It has been careful to avoid duplication, and has sought to make recommendations only where it has identified clear gaps that it is uniquely placed to address.

The report as a public record

The objectives of the Board of Inquiry included the establishment of an official public record of victim-survivors’ experiences of historical child sexual abuse by relevant employees in Beaumaris Primary School and certain other government schools.2

The Board of Inquiry considered the significance of establishing a public record and what footprint it wanted to leave behind when it ceased to exist. In relation to this aspect of its work, the Board of Inquiry prioritised the hopes and wishes of victim-survivors and secondary victims, and the feedback it had received along the way.

The Board of Inquiry contemplated the role and intent of this report in developing its content, and how the report would integrate with other materials to form part of the enduring public record. Other materials include the Board of Inquiry’s website.

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that much of the narrative surrounding its work has been shaped by the media, parliamentary debate, and public and private commentary from various community and advocacy groups. The Board of Inquiry recognises these contributions and the influence they will have on how this report is evaluated in the future.

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. As part of this process, and consistently with the Board of Inquiry’s objectives and Terms of Reference, the Board of Inquiry did not approach the task of establishing an official public record as requiring it to make findings of fact about those experiences, or to forensically examine or test them. The public record reflects what the Board of Inquiry heard.


By committing this report to the public record, the Board of Inquiry hopes to leave a meaningful legacy on behalf of every victim-survivor, secondary victim and affected community member impacted by the events the subject of this report. This legacy must include acknowledgement and validation of the past; and, to meet the expectations of the brave individuals the Board of Inquiry has encountered, it must contribute to the prevention of child sexual abuse in the future.