In 2003 the Anglican Synod – the peak body of the Church – decided to initiate an inquiry into the way in which complaints about sexual abuse or misconduct had been handled by the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide in the preceding decades.
A well-respected Supreme Court judge named Trevor Olssen, an esteemed lawyer of some 40 years standing, was appointed to conduct and head the inquiry. He was a man with vast experience in a range of jurisdictions, including the field of employment and industrial relations, and had been the President of the South Australian Industrial Court and Commission for almost a decade prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court.
There wasn’t much that Justice Olssen didn’t know about handling workplace issues, or conducting employment investigations properly, not much at all.
Which makes his strident criticism of the manner in which then Anglicare CEO, and now chief of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Gerard Menses dealt with serious allegations of a staff member’s sexual misconduct toward young children all the more pointed and concerning, and his findings, coupled with Menses continued denial of their validity and defence of his conduct, raises giant questions about his suitability to hold any role whatsoever in which he is allowed contact with young people, let alone a position that affords him absolute power in an organisation that deals with children on a daily basis.
For those involved with the veritable Make-A-Wish charity and unfamiliar with Mr Menses past, it will prove highly instructive to first take a close look at Justice Olssen’s reportJustice Olssen’s report – referred to in the Child Abuse Royal Commission hearings as the ‘Adelaide Report’ – and to then compare and contrast it with Menses evidence last week to the Commission, in order to make an informed determination regarding whether this man is fit to head such a well-respected organisation, or whether he instead risks dragging it unfairly into the mire.
Let’s begin by looking at the relevant extracts from Justice Olssen’s ‘Adelaide report’, contained at pages 46 – 52.