In November 2012, the former state government asked former Supreme Court justice the Hon. Bruce Debelle AO QC to conduct an independent inquiry into the handling of the response to the indecent assault of a child by an out-of-school-hours care staff member at a western suburbs school. The inquiry was subsequently converted into a royal commission.
On 1 July 2013, the former government released the Independent Education Inquiry Final Report, better known as the Debelle report, containing 43 recommendations. That report remains publicly available on the Department for Education website. Certain evidence received by Mr Debelle was ordered by him to remain confidential. The final two recommendations of the Debelle report were that the non-confidential evidence from the inquiry, comprising witness statements and exhibits, ought to be made publicly available following the finalisation of all criminal proceedings against the perpetrator of the indecent assault, Mark Harvey. Those criminal proceedings were finalised in August 2014.
The final two recommendations are the only recommendations from the Debelle report which have not been implemented—that is, the witness statements and exhibits being published. The former government accepted all the recommendations of the final report and committed to tabling the non-confidential transcripts and exhibits in parliament, subject to their consideration by the Crown Solicitor's Office as to whether any further redaction of them was necessary. Redactions have been made primarily to remove:
content which may reveal the identity of a victim of a sexual offence;
content which may be defamatory;
content which is otherwise of a sensitive or personal nature that could, if released, cause distress or anxiety to a person who has not consented to that release; and
content subject to legal professional privilege.
Given the volume and nature of materials involved, the redaction process took some time and was only completed earlier this year. This government considers it appropriate, in the interests of transparency, to now implement the remaining recommendations of the Debelle report. I hereby table the non-confidential and redacted transcripts and exhibits from the Independent Education Inquiry. The transcripts and exhibits will be publicly available upon request to the Clerk of the House of Assembly.
I note that all reasonable efforts have been made to provide advance notice of the proposed tabling of these materials to each of the witnesses whose transcript is being made available and to the families of the victims of Mark Harvey. I also wish to assure all members that the government is not proposing to make available, via tabling in parliament or otherwise, any material which Commissioner Debelle ordered to remain confidential.