A convicted American pedophile was recruited to work at a Victorian state-run youth centre where another staff member saw him be “touchy-feely” with the boys, an inquiry has heard.
Former Baltara Reception Centre youth officer Grant Holland said a number of staff had grave concerns about the man’s interaction with the children in the early to mid-1980s.
“There was just something very creepy about that guy and his interactions with the kids were not right, and many of us raised it, and raised it, and raised it,” Mr Holland told the child abuse royal commission on Wednesday.
“I never caught him in an extremely compromising position, but in a high risk and worrying, compromising position; very physical and touchy feely with the children.”
Mr Holland said when he initially raised concerns the reaction was that the man, who was recruited by the community services department, had great credentials.
He told the commission it later emerged that the man had convictions in the US for pedophilia.
“There was an article about this gentleman and that he was a pedophile from America.”
Mr Holland said he was upset by the department’s response that the man was never alone with children, as he did the nightshift alone.
Mr Holland told the inquiry there were times when youth officers were pressured by supervisors to water down an incident report to make the incident seem less serious, or a report was returned and the category had been downgraded.
“Allegations of child sexual abuse were sometimes watered down and described as sexual experimentation,” he said.
A former Baltara resident, BDA, said he was sexually abused by older boys on his first night there, as a 10-year-old in 1988.
BDA said one of the boys told him: “If you want to survive you’ll do as I say.”
BDA said he was also later abused by other boys in the Turana Youth Reception Centre, where he was referred to a specialist group program to talk about issues.
“I didn’t feel comfortable talking about the abuse because some of the boys that had abused me were in the group,” BDA told the commission.