Tasmania’s ‘unexamined dark past’ has led to final child sexual abuse reckoning

The current investigation into sexual abuse in Tasmania has opened wounds, with one expert saying the prison island’s “unexamined dark past” has much to justify – compounded by lingering shame and a compulsion to secrecy.

In its first week of public hearings, the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian government’s responses to child sexual abuse in institutional settings heard from a mother who said her concerns about a nurse at Launceston General Hospital were not taken seriously, and how the workplace culture at the Ashley Youth Detention Center could encourage an old-fashioned, unfavorable attitude towards children.

The commission will also examine the Department of Education’s practice of moving pedophile teachers from school to school, and child abuse in the state’s out-of-home care system.

It will continue to hear stories from child sexual abuse victims survivors.

On Thursday, the committee heard from two academics – political scientist Professor Richard Eccleston and historian and author Professor Cassandra Pybus – who spoke about the characteristics of Tasmania and its culture that may have allowed child abuse to normalize.

Professor Cassandra Pybus.Delivered: Peter Mathews

A ‘culture of silence’

dr. Pybus said the days of prisoners in Tasmania were “cruel”.

“What characterizes Tasmania in many ways is its powerful carceral past; it was fully and wholly established as a prison society and, thanks to the third governor, it was administered in extraordinary ways,” she said.

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