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How Tasmania’s education dept failed a child sexual abuse survivor

It was a moment of empowerment for a man who had kept a terrible secret to himself for decades, since he was a 12-year-old boy.But while Mr Leishman was able to finally hold to account his abuser, serial paedophile and science teacher Darrel George Harington – it was a different matter for the education department that employed him.On Friday, Mr Leishman told Tasmania’s child sexual abuse commission of inquiry about the difficulties he had with the department, which moved Harington school-to-school for decades despite repeated accusations.After Harington was first jailed in 2015, Mr Leishman thought someone from the education department might make contact with him, even to check on his welfare, but “never heard anything”.Eventually, he wrote to the department, but was told it wasn’t sure if it could respond in case it wasn’t “helpful to the (national) royal commission process”.Mr Leishman wrote again the following year, expressing his disappointment that he still hadn’t heard anything and that he’d been “left in limbo”.The deputy secretary for learning finally met with him in 2017, some two years after Harington was jailed.“I wanted to know what complaints they had about him (Harington), who knew what, was there any record of any sort of meetings … what were the circumstances around his transfer to another school. I thought they were reasonable things to want to know,” Mr Leishman told the inquiry.He was told he would need to apply for the information via Right to Information. But when Mr Leishman applied for the documents, he was told he’d need Harington’s permission.“I felt completely stymied by the process. I felt like I was up against a wall,” he said.“I’ve been responsible for this man going to jail, and then I’m going to ask him for permission to give me information … I thought, this is a rabbit hole I’m not going down.”Mr Leishman said he was given “no answers to anything”.“I still don’t feel that everything’s been laid out on the table,” he said.This week during the inquiry’s hearings, education department secretary Tim Bullard apologised to Mr Leishman for the “distress” caused and the “slowness of the response”.Mr Bullard, who gave evidence after Mr Leishman, said he was disappointed to hear of the barriers Mr Leishman faced when seeking “support or acknowledgment”.“There has been a systemic failing to put victim-survivors at the centre of decisions,” he said.Mr Bullard also referred to survivor Katrina Munting, who gave evidence earlier in the week about being “let down” by the department after she was abused by her teacher.“Katrina’s evidence and experiences she provided is a very stark example of where, if you like, bureaucratic process gets in the way of humanity,” he said.Twitter follow Amber Wilson

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