Anger at revelations child sex offender worked with juniors at Riverina club

Questions: The same convicted sex offender found working at Sacred Heart Catholic School recently has also been heavily involved in junior sport.
Questions: The same convicted sex offender found working at Sacred Heart Catholic School recently has also been heavily involved in junior sport.

PARENTS are demanding answers after learning a convicted child sex offender was allowed to run junior golf clinics and accompany their children to events.

The man's criminal past came to light last week when Sacred Heart Catholic School confirmed he had been employed as a contractor to work on the school grounds.

The Diocese of Wagga Wagga promptly moved to ban the man, who was convicted almost two decades ago of sexually abusing an underage girl, from working at any of its 31 schools.

The offender's name was widely circulated on social media, with parents coming to the realisation he had been actively involved in junior sport, particularly golf, in recent years.

As a member of a Riverina golf club, it is understood the man has conducted coaching sessions for junior golfers, as well as driven children to events. 

It is also understood the man has travelled with children from another sporting organisation, in which his son is involved, on a weekend trip out of town. 

Parents express their concern

The Daily Advertiser, which has chosen not to name either the club or the organisation at this time, does not suggest anything improper has occurred.

However, it has spoken to a number of concerned parents, who wish to remain anonymous to protect their children.

One parent expressed horror at the realisation the club and organisation had seemingly failed in their duty to conduct suitable background checks. 

"I am horrified that the club doesn't have rules in place to check who is around our children when they are at that vulnerable stage," they said.

"I trusted [the sporting organisation] that these boxes had all been ticked and they hadn't been.

"I have had a phone call from [them] and I know things are going to change and that's all I want."

Organisation responds

A spokesman for the sporting organisation said parents were contacted once it became aware the man had a criminal conviction.

"Although no official complaint has been received, [we are] investigating this matter thoroughly," he said.

"[The] board and management are committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people who participate in [our] activities or use our services.

"[The organisation] continually reviews its policies and procedures in relation to these matters and, in doing so, takes advice from relevant experts and provides ongoing training for its staff."

Golf club stays silent

While frustrated with the sporting organisation, the parent said they were more upset at the golf club.

"I am frustrated the club didn't come forward and say 'We made a mistake, we're all human and this is what we are going to do now'," they said.

"Nothing has been said and that's the hardest thing to take. They think it can be swept under the carpet."

The parent said while the individual in question has served his time, the children's safety has to be put first. "I want the club to admit this has happened and then put in place better protocols so this doesn't happen again," they said. 

The golf club has been contacted twice for comment in the past week, but provided no response.

Another parent said while the individual has served his time for the crime, there still needs to be precautions put in place. "We all make mistakes and we are all entitled to move on with our lives - perpetrators and victims," they said. "Nonetheless, common sense, protection of victims and accountability need to prevail and in this current situation - it has not.

"The man himself needs to take responsibility for poor decision-making. He knows his past and should be aware, independently of clearances and the like, that he should not put himself in a position that makes him susceptible to questions."

A third parent expressed similar concerns and said due to social media, the children involved in the golf club were discussing it.

"It is more concerning that it has been days and no one has talked to parents," they said. "There has been nothing and it becomes Chinese whispers. Everyone is ringing and saying my daughter or my son was ... away with him ... the kids talk about it constantly."

The offender has been approached for comment.

What does the legislation say?

The NSW Working With Children Check involves a national criminal history check and a review of findings of workplace misconduct.

It also includes continuous monitoring once an organisation lists its employees and volunteers in the Office of the Children's Guardian's system to verify them.

A spokesperson said the WWCC is one tool organisations need to use to keep children safe and staff also need to look at policies and practices to make sure they are providing a safe environment for children.

"The Working With Children Check is required for child-related work - which is when services are provided for people under the age of 18 and when the work normally involves face-to-face contact with children for extended periods," the spokesperson said.

"'Work' includes volunteers who are 'working' although it is unpaid work. There are also some specific roles identified in the legislation that requires a check."

The legislation also states that close relatives, such as parents, uncles and aunties, volunteering at their child's usual school and extracurricular activities do not require a check. The exception is that volunteers at overnight camps for children, even when their own are present, do require a check.

In the specific instance of whether or not parents need a check when escorting children to an event depends on the situation, said the spokesperson.

"We encourage and provide training for organisations to assess the risk to children in different situations including transport," they said.

"For example, a parent car-pooling to take a group of children to training would not need a WWCC. If parents are volunteering through the club and they are providing transport for children other than their own, then they would require a WWCC."