YMCA checks lax: Child sex abuse royal commission 

SEVERAL mothers of children abused by convicted child sex offender Jonathan Lord this week have told the royal commission into child sex abuse that their sons were groomed before they were abused.

Lord was jailed last November for 10 years, with six years non-parole, after pleading guilty to 11 counts of aggravated indecent assault on a person under 16 and two counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and under authority.

Lord had worked for the YMCA at its before-and-after-school and holiday-care centres at Jacaranda Road, Caringbah; St Patrick’s Primary School, Sutherland, and Caringbah, Lilli Pilli and Laguna Street public schools.

AL, AK, AV, AR, AH, AD, AE, AF, AL, and AQ are boys aged between six and 11 abused by Lord between 2009 and 2011. AP was a friend of AO, who was also abused when Lord babysat him. 

Another victim, AI, lived near him and Lord met AQ at church.

Evidence outlined by senior counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, suggests alarm bells should have been ringing long before the abuse started. A month before Lord applied for the position at Caringbah YMCA, he was sent home from a YMCA camp in the US after being found in a cabin emerging from the bathroom with a boy, 8.

His application for the Caringbah position said he wanted to ‘‘work with kids and help them to experience life, love and friendships in an environment where there are no walls and boundaries’’.Ms Furness said the YMCA's policy for checking references was not followed properly when Lord was employed.

According to evidence, the only reference checked was from Lord's stepfather.

The YMCA deeply regretted the incidents giving rise to the hearing and extended its deepest sympathies to the victims and their families, YMCA NSW chief executive Phillip Hare said outside the hearing.

He emphasised the organisation had "no history of child sexual abuse cover-up" and had acted immediately to remove Lord from contact with children when it became aware of the allegations.

The YMCA has acknowledged the hurt and harm, not only to the boys but to their parents.

But mothers have told of their grief and confusion not just at learning what happened to their sons but in trying to protect them while navigating the nightmarish bureaucratic aftermath.

A week after the first allegations against Lord surfaced, the children's services co-ordinator at YMCA Caringbah, Jacqui Barnat, wrote to staff reminding them of its policies and their duty of care to children.

"I feel at times we are a little 'carefree' with some aspects" and this might be risky for children and staff, Ms Barnat wrote.

Five days later, staff were called to a meeting and told not to discuss the allegations with parents, the media or among themselves.

They were warned "unauthorised disclosures" could lead to termination of their employment.

Gregory Sirtes, SC, appearing for YMCA NSW, said the fact Lord was able to "infiltrate" an organisation with "industry-leading practices" and win the trust of co-workers and parents demonstrated the need for better training of staff across the childcare sector to identify grooming behaviour.

The hearing continues.