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Education bureaucrat's emotional defence

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An Education Department bureaucrat made an emotional defence of her conduct before today’s meeting of the parliamentary committee looking at matters arising from the Debelle inquiry.

Seeming close to tears at times, Anne Kibble, the department’s Director of Programs & Regional Management, told the parliamentary committee she had personal links to a sexual abuse case.

“This whole matter has had a dramatic impact on my life,” she said.

“I became a teacher because I knew there had to be a better deal for children … and now I feel like I’ve let the children, there families and the school at the centre of this down.

“I have a family member who was abused by one of the most notorious pedophiles in the state. Because of this I never would or ever will act other than in the best interests of children. It seems to me that as responsible adults we have to focus on the real issue of child protection.”

She said the committee’s conduct was doing nothing to help sexual abuse victims, and its regular meetings reopened the wounds of sexual abuse sufferers in the community.

“They are confronted and reminded daily about what has happened to them and they cannot escape. These actions are not a way to protect our children and make sure they have the best systems in place to make sure they won’t be hurt.”

Kibble apologized for the conduct of the department during the matters investiaged by Debelle. However, she said everyone – including former education ministers Jay Weatherill and Grace Portolesi – worked to the best of their abilities with the information they had at the time.

“Don’t get me wrong – as a department we could have and should have done better. Our processes and procedures had gaps. I for one and everyone who played a part in this are deeply sorry for what has happened.

“No one person did not perform their repsonsibilites to the best of their abilitiy with the information they had at the time.

“I do not think that we have a major cultural issue, I think that what we have is people trying to do their best.”

In response to a question from Labor’s Russell Wortley, she said she was personally pleased with the way Debelle’s recommendations were being implemented by the Education Department.

Kibble was the author of a central email in the saga. According to the Debelle report, she authored an email instructing a letter be prepared about the sexual assault, but that it only be released upon media attention.

It was curious also that Kibble decided that the letter should not be sent “unless the story was released in the media”, Justice Debelle found.

“The story had already been published in the media in the news bulletins on ABC radio and was available on a news website.

“Furthermore, no consideration was being given to the desirability of informing parents before any further publicity in the media.”

Kibble told the committee her department had made a judgement not to inform parents about the jailing of an out-of-school hours worker found guilty for the rape of a child because of comments made by the judge in the case.

“It was about whether or not the broader community needed to be ware of that. But also it was around what the judge had said in his determination, and that was the big crucial element.”

In court the judge on the case said that he didn’t want to name the offender, school or suburb to protect the local community, Kibble said.

“We took that as being the overriding factor in how we went about that.

“If we could have our time over again, that letter would be sent. But it wasn’t … that’s one thing we should have done.”

“Each case is different. You have to look at each circumstance. What we were responding to in this particular case was that the judge said they didn’t want to name the school or the particular suburb. In hindsight, that was incorrect – whereas in other cases we do write and we have written and we will continue to write to communities.”

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