Chapter 2



This Chapter outlines the operations of the Board of Inquiry. While the previous Chapter — Chapter 1, Establishment and approach(opens in a new window) — details many of the public-facing functions of the Board of Inquiry, this Chapter describes the wide range of work occurring behind the scenes to ensure the Board of Inquiry ran smoothly from an operational perspective.

This includes the Board of Inquiry’s staffing and organisational structure, approach to governance and decision-making, and important functions relating to IT, security, facilities and records management. The Chapter also outlines the key procedural guidelines developed to assist the Board of Inquiry’s work, called practice directions.

Organisational structure and functions

The design of the Board of Inquiry as an organisation required the clear allocation of functions, responsibilities and expertise to deliver on its objectives.

In their leadership role, the CEO was supported by the Chief Adviser who assisted in the establishment and functioning of the organisation. The CEO and Chief Adviser ensured that the Chair was appropriately briefed, that significant matters were fully deliberated, and that the Board of Inquiry objectives were being achieved.

The Policy, Research and Strategy team comprised experienced policy and research officers and managers. This team conducted the Board of Inquiry’s research, informed the scope of work and lines of investigation, and supported the conduct of public hearings and roundtables. It also consulted broadly with different experts to inform the Board of Inquiry’s work. This team held primary responsibility for the drafting of this report, working closely with the Legal team.

The Communications, Engagement and Supports team was responsible for external communications, public and media engagement, and supporting victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members. Its members supported all engagement with stakeholders, including managing the Board of Inquiry’s website, phone line and contact email addresses. This team’s work also involved embedding trauma-informed practices and policies across the organisation, and working closely with the Counselling Support team. In supporting victim-survivor and other stakeholder participation in the Board of Inquiry, the team conducted intake assessments, managed the submissions process and coordinated all private sessions with participants. Together with Comme Consulting, the Board of Inquiry’s Media Adviser, the team liaised with the media to ensure that awareness of the Board of Inquiry’s activities was amplified in the community.

The Operations and Executive Support team provided logistical and corporate support for all the Board of Inquiry’s operations. This team managed the practicalities of private sessions, public hearings, roundtables and stakeholder engagement, and was also responsible for managing people and culture (HR), finances and contracts, information and records management, and the decommissioning of the Board of Inquiry.

The Legal team, comprised of solicitors from Corrs Chambers Westgarth, fulfilled the role of Solicitors Assisting. In that role, the Legal team provided support for public hearings and was involved in all forms of information collection and analysis (including the development of this report). The Legal team also advised the Board of Inquiry on matters relating to risk, compliance, contracts, information management, and legal issues connected to media and communications. The Head of the Legal team was also General Counsel for the Board of Inquiry.

As described in Chapter 1(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry also appointed Counsel Assisting to perform multiple critical functions.

Diagram 4 shows the structure and teams of the Board of Inquiry.

Diagram 4 Organisational structure of the Board Of Inquiry

Governance and decision-making


The Board of Inquiry had a governance framework with supporting processes and practices to ensure the efficient functioning of the organisation and an appropriate authorising environment for decisions. Regular meetings provided opportunities for feedback and group discussion. The formal decision-making structure provided rigour, but did not stifle opportunities for sharing ideas and creative thinking. Decisions were recorded and teams debriefed in a timely manner, as appropriate, to assist with ongoing work and connection to the Board of Inquiry’s overarching strategy and direction. Decision-making was enabled through the following:

  • Chair meetings — Formal weekly meetings with the Chair were attended by the CEO, executives and other relevant staff. Additional meetings were scheduled as required, particularly to deliberate on findings and recommendations. Some papers and briefings were provided to the Chair out of session.
  • Executive meetings — Formal weekly meetings of the executive group discussed important issues and risks associated with the Board of Inquiry’s work program, legal matters, operations and staff wellbeing. The Chair attended these meetings during the establishment phase of work.

Risk management, business continuity and security

It was important for the Board of Inquiry to identify and mitigate any risks that may have compromised its ability to do its work successfully. Risks were identified by the Chair, the CEO and other Board of Inquiry staff over the life of the inquiry. Risk management was a standing item on the weekly executive meeting agenda and a key feature in the Board of Inquiry’s planning documents, processes and protocols.

One key risk that needed to be managed related to business continuity — ensuring the Board of Inquiry was able to maintain all the staff it needed to deliver its functions throughout the inquiry. As the Board of Inquiry was a small team operating to an ambitious deadline, the loss of one or two members of staff would have been significant. To prepare for this, people with multiple and transferrable skills were prioritised in recruitment to enable flexibility if short-term staffing gaps needed to be addressed.

Information security was another a key consideration for the Board of Inquiry. Access to the Board of Inquiry office space was highly restricted and only accessible to staff and essential contractors, with on-site attendance tracked. All visitors were checked by building security and only allowed into the building if accompanied by a Board of Inquiry staff member. There was a strict ‘clean desk’ policy and processes for managing hard-copy materials to reduce the possibility of unintended confidentiality breaches. Careful attention was given to the protection of electronic materials and resources (as discussed further below).

The Board of Inquiry also engaged a security firm to be present at its public hearings and ensure the safety of all attendees present. A carefully briefed senior security professional attended all hearings and made a valuable contribution to the sense of safety that was achieved.

Protocols and procedures

Protocol with the State

The Board of Inquiry entered into a protocol with the State of Victoria, which was finalised in September 2023. This protocol set out commitments by both the Board of Inquiry and the State to support the Board of Inquiry having timely access to documents and data, and agreed ways of working, including expectations around communication, consultation and cooperation. It also established mechanisms to efficiently manage and process documents where the State considered it had good reason to not comply with a Notice to Produce or where documents contained sensitive information that affected the extent to which they could be published (for example, in the Board of Inquiry’s report or on its website). This protocol was put into operation in conjunction with the practice directions issued by the Board of Inquiry.

Practice directions

The Board of Inquiry was empowered to issue practice directions under the Inquiries Act 2014 (Vic). These were guidelines that explained processes and procedures the Board of Inquiry would adopt in conducting its work. The Board of Inquiry made six practice directions, which were all published on its website:

  1. Practice Direction No 1: General Information (12 September 2023) — which gave a general preliminary overview of how the Board of Inquiry would work, including how it would receive and treat information, issue and enforce compliance with Notices to Produce or Notices to Attend, and conduct closed hearings and private sessions. Some of these matters became the subject of specific practice directions.
  2. Practice Direction No 2: Leave to Appear (12 September 2023) — which explained how the Board of Inquiry would decide whether people (other than witnesses) could appear before the Board of Inquiry in its public hearings (that is, whether it would give ‘leave to appear’). Leave to appear is sometimes sought by lawyers of interested parties who wish to ask questions of witnesses, or make arguments or submissions to an inquiry. Only the State of Victoria sought leave to appear before the Board of Inquiry. The State of Victoria did not seek to question lived experience witnesses.
  3. Practice Direction No 3: Production of Documents and Document Management Protocol (26 September 2023) — which explained the format and processes for providing documents to the Board of Inquiry in compliance with a Notice to Produce. It also provided the basis upon which people could argue they had a reasonable excuse not to comply with a Notice to Produce, and included considerations relating to documents subject to secrecy or confidentiality requirements.
  4. Practice Direction No 4: Private Sessions (12 September 2023) — which covered the Board of Inquiry’s processes for private sessions, including practical issues relating to information management, expenses, and the legal rights and responsibilities of participants.
  5. Practice Direction No 5: Public Hearings (12 September 2023) — which described procedural matters in relation to public hearings, including how proceedings would be conducted, and provided information regarding restricted publication orders and closed hearings.
  6. Practice Direction No 6: Witness Expenses Policy (revised) (8 November 2023) — which described the circumstances in which the Board of Inquiry would compensate or reimburse someone in connection with their participation in the inquiry.

Guides and guidelines

The Board of Inquiry developed a range of guides and guidelines relevant to particular functions. These included media guidelines, as well as guides for participants in private sessions and public hearings. They are discussed further in Chapter 1(opens in a new window), and the latter guides may be found in Appendices E, Private sessions and G, Information about public hearings(opens in a new window).

Finance and procurement

Under the establishing Order in Council, the Board of Inquiry was authorised to incur expenses and financial obligations up to $4.5 million.1 In the early stages of the Board of Inquiry’s work, it was identified that the allocated budget may require review to ensure that its objectives could be fully met, and that all people who wished to participate in the inquiry could be afforded the appropriate time and support to do so. Following a request from the Board of Inquiry, the Victorian Government amended the total budget to $5.4 million.2

Financial management and internal controls

The Board of Inquiry developed a budget strategy during the early part of the establishment phase. The budget was aligned to key functions, but managed via a single cost centre and a central approval process. The Board of Inquiry appropriately and regularly reviewed the budget strategy, and adjusted it to meet the evolving requirements of the work and to manage risk.

The Board of Inquiry also implemented internal control measures from the outset as part of a robust financial management approach. It utilised the accounts payable system offered by the Department of Government Services, which had embedded controls for authorisations. Expenditure and projected expenditure were modelled frequently and closely monitored.


The Board of Inquiry elected to adopt procurement processes consistent with relevant Victorian public sector guidelines. The most important considerations were to ensure that all procurement was robust, transparent and efficient, and achieved maximum value for public money. The Board of Inquiry either utilised relevant Victorian Government state purchase contracts for efficiency and value, or conducted competitive market processes. With the assistance of the Legal team, the Board of Inquiry developed contracts for service (and associated terms and conditions) and confidentiality deeds, and all contracts were approved by the CEO in consultation with the Chair.

IT and records management

Given its short operation, the Board of Inquiry chose to engage the Department of Government Services to provide suitable IT, security and data management. The Board of Inquiry’s IT system was segmented and established under a dedicated domain, with restricted access to uphold its independence and confidentiality. IT support and a helpdesk service were provided by Cenitex, an IT shared services provider. Given the sensitive nature of the Board of Inquiry’s work, data security was of the utmost importance.

The Board of Inquiry utilised the Microsoft SharePoint platform as its core electronic document records management system. This platform enabled multiple users to collaborate in documents simultaneously, and also provided an organisational intranet site. The intranet covered areas such as staff resources and administration, and included useful documents such as news articles and operational processes and guides. The Board of Inquiry used other Microsoft tools, including Outlook and Teams, for most internal and external communication and engagement.

The Board of Inquiry provided staff and relevant contractors with portable devices and the ability to work via the Office 365 online portal. Staff were also given policy and guidance materials regarding IT software and information security.

For the work conducted at the Yoorrook Justice Commission, including private sessions and public hearings, a restricted secure network was set up, as well as installation of a dedicated multifunctional device for secure printing, scanning and copying.

The Board of Inquiry also engaged third parties to provide and manage certain specific IT functions:

  • A document management system — This was provided by Corrs Chambers Westgarth as part of its work as the Legal team, and was used to host source documentation and reference materials. It became the main repository for research materials, submissions, hearings materials such as transcripts and exhibits, correspondence, responses to Notices to Produce, and formal records of engagement activities.
  • File sharing — This was also provided by Corrs Chambers Westgarth as part of its work as the Legal team. It offered a secure mechanism for the transfer and shared access of documents between different teams working for the Board of Inquiry.
  • Submissions via the Board of Inquiry’s website — Plug-in software was procured to facilitate the secure input and retention of information and submissions from the public.
  • Online hearing book — This system was provided by Law In Order Pty Ltd. It securely received documents from the document management system (referred to above) to enable them to be shared with parties for each public hearing.

These arrangements ensured the Board of Inquiry could meet the objectives associated with ease of access and usability, risk and business continuity, privacy and confidentiality, and retention and disposal of records and information.

People and culture

The Operations and Executive Support team coordinated and oversaw HR matters, with advice sought as needed from the Department of Government Services. The Board of Inquiry utilised the Department of Government Services’ HR Shared Services payroll function.

With the assistance of the Department of Government Services’ recruitment team, the Board of Inquiry advertised roles in July 2023 on internal and external Victorian public service careers sites and Seek. Successful candidates were hired on a mixture of secondments and fixed-term contracts. No staff members were sourced or appointed through labour-hire firms.

The Board of Inquiry sought to be a high-performing, hardworking and compassionate organisation, prioritising the wellbeing of all those who participated in the Inquiry, as well as those undertaking the Inquiry’s work. Staff came from the Victorian public service, other state public services, the Australian public service and the not-for-profit sector. They came with a range of experience in royal commissions, independent reviews, childhood trauma, legal services and public policy. Their expertise included research, legislation, communications, engagement, social work and public administration. The task of building the Board of Inquiry team involved deliberately bringing together the diverse range of skills and experience of those appointed, as well as ensuring that staff embodied the values and attributes that were crucial to the Board of Inquiry’s success.

Despite the rapid assembly of the Board of Inquiry team, staggered start dates and pressure to commence the inquiry without delay, it came together quickly. The culture of the organisation was set formally and informally at the outset, and was made clear to staff and contractors alike. People supported each other, shared ideas and genuinely worked as a team.

A trauma-informed approach would not have been possible without an appropriately trained and educated workforce driving it. While some Board of Inquiry staff had extensive expertise in trauma and social work, others required training to strengthen their skills in this area. The Board of Inquiry offered training developed by a specialist organisation, knowmore, to all staff members. This training ensured that everyone was equipped with, and understood how to apply, the core principles of trauma-aware practice in their engagement with victim-survivors. In turn, this enabled staff members to ensure victim-survivors had safe, empathic, trauma-sensitive and shame-reducing interactions whenever they engaged with the Board of Inquiry.

This training was also designed to ensure that staff were supported to protect their personal and professional wellbeing. By necessity, the Board of Inquiry exposed staff to information that was challenging to process and could elicit strong emotions. Accordingly, in addition to trauma-informed practice, training covered mental health in the workplace, vicarious trauma, fatigue and burnout, and self-care plans. A range of specific support resources were developed and made available to all members of staff. The Board of Inquiry also provided staff with unlimited 24/7 access to an independent firm of registered, experienced psychologists, with whom they could have confidential discussions about any matters that concerned them. Staff wellbeing remained a standing item on the executive meeting agenda, and a priority for all executives and managers throughout the life of the inquiry.


The Board of Inquiry needed a range of premises from which to conduct its work — not only its main office but also facilities for private sessions, public hearings and roundtables. Other than the main office (which was principally only for staff), these premises needed to be accessible and convenient for the community, and also had to promote a feeling of safety and inclusion, particularly for victim-survivors.

The Department of Government Services assisted the Board of Inquiry by identifying a self-contained, private, secure floor in the Treasury precinct which the Board of Inquiry was able to use as its main office.

The Board of Inquiry considered numerous locations for private sessions and public hearings. By arrangement, the Yoorrook Justice Commission permitted the Board of Inquiry to use its space for public hearings, private sessions and some roundtables, and also generously shared its experiences of holding public truth-telling hearings. Reflections on this space are included in Chapter 1(opens in a new window).

Steps to decommission the Board of Inquiry

Given its short life, the Board of Inquiry had to commence planning for decommissioning not long after its establishment. Consideration was given to all elements that were relevant to winding up the Board of Inquiry, including how to appropriately conclude its support for participants, communicate to the public and stakeholders, preserve relevant records, move out of facilities and farewell staff.

An important part of concluding the Board of Inquiry’s work was records management, specifically preparation for the transfer of records and their ongoing management. Following consultation with the Department of Government Services, Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Public Record Office Victoria, the Board of Inquiry ensured records were classified and categorised to facilitate retention and access according to legislative requirements. The Board of Inquiry took particular care to engage with the Department of Government Services, the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Public Record Office Victoria regarding the treatment of records containing sensitive content.

The Board of Inquiry worked with the Department of Government Services to ensure the IT environment was correctly and securely decommissioned. Checks were also conducted to confirm all third-party systems were closed. The Operations and Executive Support team ensured that a full budget reconciliation was complete and that all contracts were closed out.