Independent Inquiry To Be Held Into Katanning Hostel

Independent Inquiry To Be Held Into Katanning Hostel

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett

Katanning Hostel Special Inquiry Announced

Victor P Taffa

  • Former Supreme Court Justice Peter Blaxell to head inquiry
  • Special inquirer has power to summons witnesses and documents
  • 24-hour hotline – 1800 227 792 – established to assist former students and family members

Premier Colin Barnett today announced an independent inquiry into the conduct and response of government agencies and public officials following allegations of sexual abuse at a Katanning hostel.

The special inquiry will be undertaken by the Hon Peter Blaxell, a former Supreme Court judge, and will be set up under section 24 of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. The inquiry has similar powers to a Royal Commission.

 

Premier Barnett said Justice Blaxell would have the power to compel witnesses to attend and to require them to produce documents and give evidence under oath.

“A number of current and former public officials and members of the public have recently made public comments that their concerns about the conduct of a public officer at the St. Andrew’s Hostel in Katanning were ignored and not dealt with appropriately.” Premier Barnett said.

“Serious questions have been raised about the response to complaints of abuse of children at the hostel. Those questions must be answered.”

“It is important that we to get to the truth of what happened.”

All government agencies and officers of agencies will be required to fully and openly co-operate with the inquiry and provide access to all information, documentation or other records as requested by the inquirer. Local government agencies will be expected to co-operate in the same terms.

The inquiry will report with findings about why the sexual abuse was able to continue for an extended period. It will also make recommendations about any disciplinary action that should be taken against any public official as a consequence of the findings, and any changes that should be made to policies, procedures or operations of relevant government agencies as a consequence of the findings.

Any issues relating to criminal behaviour that arise in the course of the inquiry will be referred to WA Police. The inquiry will also refer any allegations of corruption to the Corruption and Crime Commission.

A 24-hour hotline has been put in place to assist members of the public with queries about the special inquiry 1800 227 792. Depending on their need, callers will be referred to a Police investigator if they wish to report an incident requiring investigation; a 24-hour telephone counselling service staffed by experts from the Department of Child Protection’s Crisis Care Service; or a member of the team working on the special inquiry.

The Department of Child Protection is also boosting the support services available in Katanning with an additional social worker available from today to assist former students and family members.

Justice Blaxell will report by early June 2012.