Case Study 6: Toowoomba Primary School

Case Study 6 examined the response by the Catholic Education Office (CEO), Diocese of Toowoomba, to child sexual abuse that occurred in a class room of a diocesan primary school.

The hearing examined the circumstances in which 44 child sexual assault offences were committed by a teacher, Gerard Byrnes. The offences were committed between January 2007 and November 2008 against 13 girls then aged between 8 and 10 years and occurred despite an earlier complaint being received about Byrnes’ conduct.

At the time of the initial complaint, the CEO had policies and procedures in place to deal with allegations of abuse and regular staff training was provided. Those policies and procedures had been reviewed by the relevant state government agency. However, although they had undergone child protection training, the individuals made aware of the complaint did not deal with it in accordance with the policies.

The former bishop of Toowoomba, Bishop Bill Morris, gave evidence about his involvement with the case following Byrnes’ arrest. Bishop Morris told the Royal Commission there had been a number of significant systemic failings which led to the failure to properly deal with the abuse following the initial complaint. These ranged from the failure to report suspected abuse to police to re-engaging Byrnes as a casual teacher after he had left his permanent teaching position.

In response to these failings Bishop Morris terminated the employment of the school principal and two CEO officers. Bishop Morris said the abuse by Byrnes had been the catalyst for major changes within the CEO that have led to significant improvements in diocesan child protection policies and procedures.

The Bishop also reached out to survivors’ families to offer compensation and support.

Witness List and Order

Opening Statements and Witness Statements

Transcripts

TJHC hearing room updates

Royal Commission report from Case Study 6 - The response of a primary school and the Toowoomba Catholic Education Office to the conduct of Gerard Byrnes.

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