Page 431 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 18 February 2015

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You cannot run the line, Madam Speaker, that you had nothing to do with this whole affair when you are the education minister who asked for a reference from an organisation that has been funded by that same minister, that has been presented awards by that same minister and that has launched programs—specifically, the very program concerned—by that same minister.

This should never have happened. Our school headmasters have made it clear that they would not have exposed schoolchildren to the individual concerned had they known the facts of his conviction. The individual should not have made a single visit to any school, nor interacted with any children. The number of visits should have been zero, not 10.

A travesty of these events is the enormous damage that has been done to Menslink. Menslink is a good local organisation. I am sure we would applaud their good work. Many of us have spoken at their mid-weekers or rattled the tin to raise funds. Menslink has been fined for unlawfully taking the individual into ACT schools to interact with schoolchildren without the necessary working with vulnerable people certificate, as part of the silence is deadly program. It is apparent that a working with vulnerable people clearance would not have been given to an individual awaiting sentencing for a serious crime.

Although the CEO of Menslink was aware that the individual being taken into schools was a convicted criminal awaiting sentencing, members of the board and staff who took the individual into the school were not made aware. Menslink staff and board members have made it clear that the individual concerned should not have been a participant in the silence is deadly program and would not have been had they known the truth. Let me quote from the Canberra Times:

… the discovery of [his] conviction came as a shock to many in Menslink, including the board, whose then-chairman Peter Clarke said he and the board had been “absolutely aghast” at the discovery. The issue had only been brought to the board’s attention after the sentencing, he said.

[He] should not have been in schools without a Working with Vulnerable People Card, and given his conviction he would not have got one, Rear-Admiral Clarke … said. The board had self-referred the breach to the Office of Regulatory Services, and Menslink was then fined.

Not only had Menslink broken the law [he] was not a suitable person to take into schools in any case, given he had not been sentenced or rehabilitated, Rear-Admiral Clarke said.

The individual concerned should not have been put in front of children. Let me again quote from the Canberra Times:

The issue has caused major angst inside the organisation. At least one of the people who went into schools with [the individual] resigned in protest in the past fortnight, and at least one other person is said to be deeply unhappy.

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