Like many of you I have watched aghast as the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse has focused on the unfathomable betrayal of children that has occurred within Australia over the past decades.
Over the past fortnight, the Royal Commission has come closer to home for Australia’s Jewish community. What has been uncovered are shocking instances of abuse and the failure of bystanders to intervene to prevent harm.
It is hard to think of a more atrocious act than the abuse of a child. This is particularly abhorrent when the very institutions that our families look to for support in setting the moral compasses of our children are the ones in which children were least safe.
There is another parallel story to this most shameful of narratives that is worthy of telling. This is of the courageous, indeed heroic stand taken by the victims of abuse to ensure that their experiences are not repeated.
The terrible personal toll that the victims had to endure first in suffering the abuse, then in living with the ongoing torment of it and finally, and to our community’s great shame, in being vilified and victimised for seeking help or redress is beyond comprehension.
It is therefore befitting that we take a moment to honour the heroes of the Royal Commission who have taken the stand to ensure that children are not mistreated in the manner that they were. Whilst most of the victims were listed by their pseudonyms we take an opportunity to thank Manny Waks, AVA, AVQ, AVB and AVC. We pray that your courage is rewarded by a communal response that sees genuine change in policies, practices and attitudes.
The Royal Commission has highlighted the uncomfortable truth that abuse happens far too frequently across Australia’s many community groups and that children everywhere need to be protected.
At The King David School we have instituted a rigorous Child Protection Policy and have focused on professional development of all staff members on conduct and spotting the warning signs of abuse. We liaise with child protection authorities and with Tzedek, the Jewish Community’s organization dedicated to fighting child abuse to ensure that our practices promote the safety of our students. This week our Senior Leadership Team underwent further training and we will be offering further education sessions for the parent community run in conjunction with Tzedek.
While, like me, you feel sickened and enraged at the acknowledgment of the depravity that exists within elements of our society, it is crucial that we also take pride in the incredible courage of the victims. We pray that the Royal Commission hearings stand as a watershed moment in the protection of Australia’s children. At The King David School we will continue to follow our mission statement’s promise “to resolutely and consistently focus on the responsibility to nurture, develop and indeed cherish each unique and exceptional child which the School has been created to serve and which it has the privilege to serve.”