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Five years after the royal commission into child sex abuse: what’s changed?

Michael Visontay
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Published: 26 August 2022

Last updated: 5 March 2024

A public forum in Melbourne next week will discuss how Jewish community organisations have responded to the inquiry’s painful revelations and lessons.

How much has changed in the Australian Jewish community since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse wound up five years ago?

The challenges across all sections of Australian society during the past five years have been immense, as organisations big and small grapple with claims of compensation, new institutional protocols, removal of bad apples and personal vigilance.

To what extent have Jewish organisations, from educational to religious and community care, learned the painful lessons uncovered by the Commission?

These are some of the key questions for discussion at a public forum to be held in Melbourne on August 30 featuring a panel of community leaders and prominent advocates.

The forum, titled Where are we now and what lies ahead?, has been organised by child sexual abuse advocacy organisation VoiCSA and is supported by The Jewish Independent and the National Council of Jewish Women Australia (NCJWA).

Speakers at the event include Liana Buchanan, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People (Victoria), Manny Waks, the CEO of VoiCSA and Marilyn Kraner, Divisional Manager, Community Services, Jewish Care.

This forum provides a valuable opportunity to hear what is happening out there, by advocates and leaders engaged at the coal face - MANNY WAKS

“For all the good intentions of people and organisations within the community, it’s hard to gauge what genuine progress has been made over these past five years,” Waks told The Jewish Independent.

“The recent deregistration of Yeshiva College in Sydney is a sad example - this is a Jewish institution whose failures were laid bare at the Royal Commission. Our roof bodies were called to the same hearing and spoke of setting up a taskforce to work with institutions to promote child safety. And yet now the school, attended by 56 children, has had to be shut down because of child safety concerns.

“This forum provides a valuable opportunity to hear what is happening out there, by advocates and leaders engaged at the coal face,” Waks said.

The Commission’s public hearings included an examination of the abuse of boys within two ultra-orthodox Jewish organisations associated with the Chabad communities in Melbourne and Sydney (not connected), known as Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi.

“The final report, which was released in 2017, stated that 15 males had been subjected to CSA (childhood sexual abuse) by males (mostly of adult age) within the two organisations. The majority of the perpetrators were teachers, but others responsible included rabbis and support staff or volunteers,” Philip Mendes and Marcia Pinskier wrote in an article about commission’s scrutiny of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community.

“The commission presented four major findings pertaining to CSA within these Jewish organisations:

The specific vulnerability of children in ultra-orthodox organisations due to an absence of sex education and associated patriarchal gender roles

A reluctance to report CSA to secular authorities due to cultural and religious beliefs connected to elements of Halacha

A failure to support survivors of CSA, and indeed a tendency to align with the abuser rather than the victim

A lack of operational child protection policies and procedures for responding to complaints.

The forum on Tuesday night will explore what responses the community has made to these failings identified by the Commission in its final report, released at the end of 2017.

After the three featured speakers have made their opening remarks, the floor will be opened to members of the public to ask questions.


Photo: Counsel assisting the commission, Maria Gerace, addresses a public hearing into the response of Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi to child sexual abuse in Melbourne (Photo supplied)

About the author

Michael Visontay

Michael Visontay is the Commissioning Editor of TJI. He has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 30 years. Michael is the author of several books, including Who Gave You Permission?, co-authored with child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks, and Welcome to Wanderland: Western Sydney Wanderers and the Pride of the West.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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