A national inquiry into child sex abuse is considering recommending that the YMCA examine whether its NSW CEO is the proper person for the job.
YMCA NSW has been forced to admit serious failures in senior management led to a pedophile operating unchecked in a south Sydney childcare facility for two years.
The childcare provider has also agreed to accept a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommendation it consider whether two senior executives should hold positions overseeing the care and protection of children.
The fitness of NSW CEO Philip Hare and Liam Whitley, the YMCA’s general manager for children’s services to hold their positions was questioned by Gail Furness, counsel for the commission, in a 105-page submission based on evidence at a hearing in October into the association’s response to revelations about Jonathan Lord.
Lord, who is now 27, was jailed earlier this year for sex offences against six children while he worked at YMCA before-and-after child care centres in Caringbah.
In an edgy day at a hearing in Sydney on Friday, Mr Ian Neil, representing YMCA NSW, challenged Ms Furness’s findings.
Ms Furness had said the evidence given by senior and middle management as to the extent to which they accepted responsibility did not “permit confidence in their capacity to carry out the significant reforms necessary to make YMCA NSW a child-safe institution”.
Lord had been recruited to work at the Caringbah centres in August 2009 by coordinator Jacqui Barnat.
Evidence in October showed she had not carried out proper reference checks which would have revealed that Lord had been fired from a youth camp in America for similar conduct.
Ms Furness recommended Ms Barnat be referred to the NSW director of public prosecution for lying at a private commission hearing when she said all Caringbah staff would have working with children checks before they started. Lord had started before his check was completed.
Ms Barnat’s barrister, Ian Temby QC, told the commission on Friday she “sincerely regrets” having given false evidence and it was not her intention to mislead the commission.
Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan queried Mr Neil on YMCA submissions on Friday which seemed to blame junior staff for the failures.
Justice McClellan said: “It would be usual in an organisation which has a middle management and senior management structure to recognise that when there are failures in lower ranks there must be a problem in the middle and senior ranks.”
Mr Neil said the submissions were not intended to be understood like that but some of the evidence by YMCA workers about training and reporting was incorrect.
Justice McClellan pressed the point and just before a lunchtime break Mr Neil said he was now instructed to say that Mr Hare, Mr Whitley and another senior manager Mary Ann Nolan accepted responsibility and acknowledged the evidence showed that the junior staff did not have effective training to allow them to deal with Lord and report his breaches.
Mr Neil also confirmed to Mr Temby that Ms Barnat should have had more detailed and specialised training in relation to recruitment and assessment.
After the break Mr Neil said Ms Furness’s assessments of Mr Hare and Mr Whitley were unfair and whether a person was fit for the roles should be based on broader conduct and on character.
When it was put to him by Justice McClellan that the commission would not make the findings but look at recommending the YMCA consider their appropriateness for the offices they hold, Mr Neil accepted that.
The royal commission will hold a further hearing on the YMCA on January 21 and will revisit the Towards Healing inquiry on January 22.