They suggested that the girl 'replicate' the abuse to authenticate her claims.

 WARNING: This post deals with widespread institutional sexual abuse and may be distressing for some readers.

Royal Commission is hearing evidence in Brisbane

There are so many elements about this, which are shameful.

The shameful way a student was made to detail the sexual abuse that occurred.

The shameful way a principal has finally admitted his ‘incompetency’.

The shameful way an assistant principal was clearly not equipped to deal with the situation.

The shameful way an abuser was allowed back to work with other children following his sacking.

The shame of a school, a diocese, a Church.

In this lies the shame. In these places, in these people.

Gerard Vincent Byrnes was sentenced to 10 years’ jail.

These people and institutions.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is examining how staff and Catholic Church officials at a Toowoomba primary school in south-east Queensland dealt with allegations of sexual offences against girls between 2007 and 2008.

Allegations that were not initially dealt with properly and led to the abuse of even more children.

In 2010, teacher Gerard Vincent Byrnes pleaded guilty to child sex offences committed against 13 girls and was sentenced to 10 years’ jail.

The Royal Commission is taking a closer look at how the school dealt with the complaints, and sadly the overwhelming factor is that the abuse could have been prevented.

Gerald Vincent Byrnes abused these girls – aged 8 to 10 years old – predominantly in the classroom – and predominantly in front of other children.

It’s hard to fathom but this teacher was actually allowed to continue teaching for over a year after the claims first surfaced.

Monique Scattini, representing the families told the Commission “One of the parents went to the principal, reported allegations that his daughter had made to him,” Monique Scattini representing the families said.

“There was subsequently a meeting with the principal and another teacher … who conducted an interview with the young girl and her father.

“At the end of that meeting neither the principal nor the teacher reported the matter to police.

“The teacher wasn’t suspended, he remained in the class for the last term, and then a whole new school year in 2008 where, sadly, he went on to abuse more of the young girls.

Terence Hayes failed to report the abuse over and over again

On Wednesday the Commission heard that the Principal Terence Hayes arranged a meeting in 2007 with a girl and her father regarding the abuse.

The girl was brought into the Principal’s office and questioned.

It was meant to be a safe environment.

But imagine, if you can, being that girl. In that office. With your Dad, who you loved, a female ‘protection officer’ and the male Principal.

And then imagine if you can what they asked her to do.


Terence Hayes told the Commission that a student protection officer suggested the girl replicate the abuse “to more authenticate what she was saying”.

The young girl was asked to use her father’s hands to demonstrate what her trusted teacher had done to her, to place her father’s hands in the same positions she was abused.

The ABC reports that Barrister Andrew Naylor questioned Mr Hayes about that approach, saying: “Did you have an expectation that KH would invite her father to put his hand up her skirt?”

`Did you think that that was an appropriate request to make?’’ The Courier Mail reported that Mr Naylor asked.

The Principal said he believed it was.

This Principal is still working in QLD schools.

Terence Hayes told the Commission that he did not report the abuse to the police because he felt the local Catholic Education Office was the “first port of call.”

While the school’s policies were correct – he did not follow them.

Hayes told the Commission he was under the belief that above all the “Bishop should not be compromised”.

The Commission has heard that the abuse was preventable but neither the school nor the Catholic Education Office contacted the police.

“It was absolutely preventable if anyone in Catholic Education had have done their job”

The Assistant Principal, Megan Wagstaff told the enquiry that she was ‘not equipped to deal with the situation.’

She said that she only had one day of training in which only two hours were given to child protection.

According to The Australian Newspaper’s report she told the Commission that “she received a phone call from a mother of a student on September 7, 2007. That mother said her daughter had overheard two students  talking and giggling about Byrnes putting his hands down their pants.

Ms Wagstaff said she noted the conversation but did not think sexual abuse had taken place. She said the mother thought the girls were making things up and were speaking inappropriately about a teacher.”

She passed her notes on this to the Principal. But again. No one went to the police.

Finally, 14-months later a parent of one of the abused girls who’s daughter had told her what had happened took it upon herself to tell the police.

“And it was absolutely preventable if anyone in Catholic Education had have done their job.” said Monique Scattini

Yesterday, finally the ex-Principal admitted his role was one of gross incompetence.

Finally he said his role was one he found it hard to come to terms with.

Finally he seemed to take some form of responsibility.

And yet the Commission continues, with more heartbreaking stories of just how shameful our schools and Churches have been with dealing with such widespread sexual abuse.

If you or someone you know needs help contact:

  • 1800 Respect National counselling helpline on 1800 737 732
  • Adults Surviving Child Abuse Counselling and support for adult survivors of child abuse on  1300 657 380
  • Bravehearts Counselling and support for survivors of child sexual abuse on 1800 272 831
  • Child Wise Counselling provider on   1800 991 099
  • Lifeline : 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention on 13 11 14