A former youth correctional centre boss has tearfully asked for forgiveness from girls sexually abused under her watch at the Victorian state-run facility.
Former superintendent Dr Eileen Slack said she did not know about the abuse by residents and staff at Winlaton Youth Training Centre but “the buck stops with me”.
“My ignorance is inexcusable. Whilst my words and thoughts are inadequate I want to sincerely apologise to each and every victim of this insidious and inhumane abuse,” she told the child abuse royal commission.
“I feel unable to express my horror and express my deep shame that you experienced sexual assaults with me as your superintendent.
“As your superintendent each and every one of you had the right to expect my protection.”
Dr Slack, who was in charge at Winlaton from 1978 until 1991, said she took 100 per cent responsibility and deeply regretted the pain her “woefully inadequate” management inflicted on the young women.
“I will forever remain acutely distressed in the knowledge of the pain and the trauma each of you endured while residents at Winlaton.”
Through her lawyer, a woman raped by her father for 27 years said Winlaton staff missed an opportunity to stop him and that if Dr Slack she had done her job BGD would not have gone through what she did.
“I definitely would go to my grave with the fact that it was a dereliction of duty toward you,” Dr Slack responded.
The commission has heard the 1979 Winlaton resident told social workers about the rapes but no one told police.
Dr Slack said she did not know about BGD’s situation at the time but deeply regretted that staff put the girl at risk by allowing her father to visit Winlaton and letting the girl spend weekends with her mother, where he could gain access to her.
Dr Slack’s tearful apology did not satisfy a former ward of the state who spent five years at Winlaton in the 1980s, who said she had heard “so many sorries”.
“I hope there is compensation for the victims, for everyone who’s been through there and suffered because most of us have,” the woman said outside the hearing.
Dr Slack admitted she made a terrible mistake in a 1977 counselling session with a Winlaton resident abused by her father, where she asked the girl if she had “attracted him by something you’d done or said”.
She said it was inappropriate, insensitive and horrifying to suggest to the girl that the man “didn’t understand what he was doing or maybe he couldn’t help himself”.
Dr Slack also told the commission she raised concerns about the use of an experimental contraceptive which was banned in the US, but was told she was overstepping her authority.
Depo Provera injections were administered to girls at Winlaton in the 1970s and 1980s, at a time when its use was supposed to be restricted to research and development and was not approved for general release in Australia until the 1990s.