'We failed': Victoria to apologise, open truth-telling process to sexually abused students

Callum Godde
AAP
Jacinta Allan has announced the government's response to abuse of students at Beaumaris Primary.
Jacinta Allan has announced the government's response to abuse of students at Beaumaris Primary. Credit: Diego Fedele/AAP

Victims of historical sexual abuse in any Victorian public school will be able to share their stories before a statewide apology.

Premier Jacinta Allan and Education Minister Ben Carroll on Wednesday announced the state government’s response to the final report from a board of inquiry into historical sexual abuse of students at Beaumaris Primary School in Melbourne’s southeast.

All nine recommendations have been accepted, including for a statewide apology to be made by the government in parliament and a public memorial to acknowledge the Beaumaris victims.

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The apology is set to be delivered in 2026 after a truth-telling process hears the experiences of victim-survivors of historical sexual abuse at all government schools prior to 2000.

“We make a clear and simple acknowledgement: we failed,” Ms Allan told reporters.

“We failed to keep these children safe, we failed to listen when they spoke out, we failed to act to ensure that it did not happen again.”

The board of inquiry was set up in June 2023 by then-premier Daniel Andrews to establish the extent of sexual abuse at Beaumaris from the 1960s to the 1990s.

It was later expanded to cover 23 other schools.

The inquiry’s final report was released in March and found the Department of Education “woefully failed to protect children from the risk” of sexual abuse because it did not have policies in place to deal with allegations or convictions.

The department was told of the conviction and sentencing of teacher David MacGregor, who was also found guilty of misconduct in an internal investigation in the 1980s.

However, he was allowed to remain as an employee, transferred into an administrative role and was only banned from teaching for three years.

The inquiry found the department still had not done a review of allegations into sexual abuse at Beaumaris or within the broader system.

In response, the government has committed to review how historical child sexual abuse matters were treated and responded to across the public school system pre-2000.

It will report publicly in 2026.

A restorative engagement program and dedicated website and telephone line for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools will also be set up.

Mr Carroll said $48.3 million would be set aside to implement the recommendations.

“Victim-survivors have carried the grief and trauma they experienced at school for more than five decades,” he said.

“We are making sure the voices and experiences of all victim-survivors of abuse in government schools are heard and reflected on the public record.”

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