Waks welcomes religious abuse enquiry

April 17, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Manny Waks, himself an alleged victim of sexual abuse as a pupil at the Melbourne Yeshiva, has welcomed a Victorian parliamentary investigation into criminal abuse by all religious entities.

Manny Waks at Yeshiva College in 1988

Premier Ted Baillieu told media  that “we regard child abuse as abhorrent”. The investigation will cover all religions and will be given the power to make the availability of evidence compulsory.

Waks told J-Wire: “As a former victim of sexual abuse within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, I welcome the Baillieu Government’s decision to launch a wide-ranging inquiry into how religious organisations in Victoria have handled child abuse allegations.

While over the years, based on a range of reports, the Catholic Church has been the major public culprit in the way they have handled sexual abuse allegations, clearly they are not the only ones within the religious sphere. From my own experience and knowledge I can testify that there has been widespread sexual abuse against many children within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Victoria, which was practically common knowledge to both community members and its leaders.

What has also become abundantly clear is that the mishandling of these cases of abuse by the ultra-Orthodox institutions has been negligent if not criminal. There have been numerous examples where victims and their families have been made to suffer, subsequent to the abuse, by these institutions and their leaders, especially when they have sought to seek justice. There are also a number of cases in which these religious institutions and their leaders irresponsibly removed paedophiles from their institution without ensuring justice for the victims and ignoring the safety of other children, who in some cases were later abused by the same perpetrator.

From my personal experience I hold the Yeshivah Centre directly responsible for the widespread sexual abuse that has gone on there over many years. They knew about it yet failed to act. Through their mixed messages, non-cooperation with the authorities and insensitivity I am deeply concerned that the Yeshivah Centre has not understood the gravity of the situation, nor how they should deal with these serious allegations. They are continuing the victimise the former victims and their families. They are being disingenuous when they claim to be doing all they can for the victims and the police—in fact it is an outright lie.

I am convinced that this wide-ranging inquiry—including the ability to compel witnesses to testify—would uncover more evidence of abuse and cover-ups.

For the sake of justice for past victims and for the future safety of our children, this proposed course of action is imperative—it is indeed long overdue. No institution should be above the law and it is about time these religious institutions are held to account. In our case, many of the former victims of the Yeshivah Centre plan to hold that institution and its leaders to full account in due course.”

The Victorian Government announced the enquiry in the following joint statement by the Premier Baillieu and Attorney-General Robert Clark…

The Victorian Coalition Government today announced the establishment of a Parliamentary inquiry into matters relating to the handling of alleged criminal abuse of children by religious and other organisations.

The inquiry will have broad terms of reference to consider the practices, policies and protocols of religious and other non-government organisations for the handling of allegations of criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations.

The inquiry will also have the power to assess any measures put in place to respond to alleged abuse and to make any necessary recommendations for changes to the law or to relevant policies and practices.

A focus of the inquiry will be on identifying reforms that can and should be put in place to better protect children and ensure that instances of abuse are responded to properly and effectively. In doing so, the inquiry will have the power to consider evidence of past policies, practices and abuse.

The Government has decided to establish the inquiry after giving careful consideration to the report and recommendations of the Cummins Inquiry and to the material put before it by many individuals and groups.

It is clear that there have been a substantial number of established complaints of sexual abuse of children by those who have taken advantage of positions of authority. This abuse has had traumatic consequences for victims and their families.

While the investigation and prosecution of individual cases of abuse are matters for the police and the courts, the broader and systemic implications of this abuse need to be investigated to ensure that everything possible is done to protect children.

The inquiry will be conducted by the bipartisan Family and Community Development Committee of Parliament. It will have powers to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence and to summons documents necessary for its deliberations.

All evidence and proceedings will be subject to Parliamentary privilege, and the inquiry will be able to take evidence in private hearings where it considers it appropriate in the interests of victims or for other reasons.

The Government has concluded that a Parliamentary inquiry is the most appropriate form for the inquiry to take. A Parliamentary inquiry will be able to proceed in a less formal and legalistic manner than a Royal Commission, and with no expectation that persons giving evidence will be required to have legal representation.

The Government extends its appreciation to the many individuals and organisations who have contacted the Government and provided accounts of their experiences. The Government also welcomes recent commitments by senior church figures to co-operate with an inquiry.

The terms of reference for the inquiry were approved by the Governor in Council earlier today and are set out below.

The Family and Community Development Committee is requested to inquire into, consider and report to the Parliament on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations, including:

  1. the practices, policies and protocols in such organisations for the handling of allegations of criminal abuse of children, including measures put in place by variousorganisations in response to concerns about such abuse within the organisation or the potential for such abuse to occur;
  2. whether there are systemic practices in such organisations that operate to preclude or discourage the reporting of suspected criminal abuse of children to State authorities;
  3. and whether changes to law or to practices, policies and protocols in such organisations are required to help prevent criminal abuse of children by personnel in such organisations and to deal with allegations of such abuse.

In undertaking the inquiry, the Committee should be mindful of not encroaching upon the responsibilities of investigatory agencies or the courts in relation to particular cases or prejudicing the conduct or outcome of investigations or court proceedings.

A spokesperson for Yeshivah Beth Rivka told J-Wire: “Yeshivah Beth Rivkah welcomes the enquiry. We are committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment for our school community.The school has adopted a leadership role by prioritising child safety, providing training programs and ensuring effective policies to prevent, and procedures to deal with, issues should they arise.”

The investigation has been given one year to prepare its report.





11 Responses to “Waks welcomes religious abuse enquiry”
  1. It has been far too obvious that Manny Waks has been at the forefront of “revealing” an ethical “problem” with the ultra Othodox Jewish community for some time.
    As the selfproclaimed champion of a worthy cause , Waks has positioned his very own person and reputation at the centre of the campaign.
    Yet some of the statements emerging from Manny Waks’ dedication to the cause cause a type of concern outside the essence of the issue. The concern has to do with the ethical strartegy employed by Waks himself in eliciting a serious situation in which he placed himself ( personal photograph constant feature ) at the centre of.
    I am seriously disturbed by highly inflamatory qualification attached to the ultra Orthodox community.
    The frequent use of impressive superlatives as only SUGGESTIVE alegations, such as :

    – “substantial number ” – no numbers produced at all, so how do we know the “substantial” !?
    – “widespread sexual abuse ” – again how does Waks qualify “widespread”

    What reveals logical negligence is Waks’ comment that the acused ultra Orthodox institutions DID duly remove the paedophiles ( plural !!) from the said institutions and yet , later the children were abused by the same perpetrators ( MW’s favourite word ). Elementary question is how did the removed plural paedophiles continue to abuse the children they were supposedly removed from!!!!
    There is also the “carelesness” of making sweeping statements that involve ALL religious denominations within the strict context of only ONE denomination, i.e. the Jewish one.
    The function of eliminating any kind of abuses in any learning institution or elsewhere is far too important to allow the engendering of misleading personal agendas unrelated to this valuable function to affect the veracity of the cause.

  2. Richard says:

    Just a comment last before I end this conversation; whatever non-Jewish organizations / Churches have done to children in their care, is really a matter for them. We can’t discuss such things on a Jewish website except in a general Human Rights issue. There has been abuse of Jewish children in Australian Christian organizations, and that is of deep concern to us, as is any abuse of children (or adults) in Jewish organizations / institutions. I recommend people have a look at a book by Prof. Glenn Taylor (Univ. of Queensland Publ.) as to what happened to Jewish children who ended up here are holocaust survivors.

    The book is called ‘Reluctant Refuge’ and details how Jewish children were forced into Christian orphanages and such like in spite of the fact that Jewish congregations and organizations in Sydney and Melbourne pleaded to have the children returned to the Jewish community. Christian imperialism was directed against Jewish children as well as their own. Australia has a shocking history of child abuse, almost on a par with the Irish.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      Wrong Richard, ALL children are G-ds children, and they are everybodies responsability and can and should be discussed, anywhere and everywhere.

  3. Richard says:

    As someone who was deeply involved in Queensland’s ‘Forde Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions’ (Report published May 1999), I have a few tips for the Victorian Inquiry and those who may be coming forward as witnesses.

    If you were abused in any way – don’t expect to be believed; government departments and ‘religious’ organizations / institutions given right of care and control of children organizations by various ‘Acts’ and Laws will do their damnest to protect their ‘reputations’ and the institutions and this means ‘demonizing’ complainers. In our experience the protection of the institution has a far greater priority than any victim.

    If you were a victim, seek specialized independent legal advice as early as possible. You need to get political. The initial cynical response to abuse victims in Queensland was for the then Premier Peter Beattie to say “so sue us!” knowing full well that victims had very little power and the State could use all its power and financial muscle to crush any claims.

    Compensation payments in Australia, when any are reluctantly given, are far less than compensation amounts that ‘religious’ institutions have been forced to pay overseas e.g. Canada, the US, Ireland and the UK, all of which have had similar Inquiries.

    I know of many people who were former child victims who now won’t have anything to do with religion or the ‘Faiths’ which ran these evil institutions. In Queensland, there were very few criminal prosecutions of those who committed crimes against defenseless children. Complaints are usually hushed-up and no co-operation given to police or investigating authorities.

    In our experience we found that so-called ‘religious’ organizations spent more money on threatening victims and using very expensive lawyers to protect their undeserved reputations than on compensating victims. The ‘Salvation Army’ (see Forde Report) is a prime example.

    The Jewish community is structured very differently from the Christian institutions and there is not the same rigid hierarchy but element of self-protection are still there. We need a clean house.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      Oliver, over the years I have noticed prosecutions had been very minimal up there in Queensland.
      It was a proverbial ‘dumping ground’ for clergy, and with the mentality of the Premier you have expressed, I can see why.
      I did notice Anna Bligh was always happy to be seen with mmembers of the Catholic hierarchy, visiting and local, and knowing what I did, always found it offensive.
      Her successor, recently chastised for his hardline in relation to the minister of police by a spokeman from the Catholic University up there, maybe is a sign of things to come.
      Be thankful the Jewish community is structured very differently.

      • Really, Richard !!!
        The implied lack of “rigidity” in the Jewish community’s ethical standards and respective same rigidity in, say, the Catholic institutions is the conduit or lack of in the protection of children in care !!!
        Should I go into the excesses of “rigidity” cum outrageous abuses by the Church !!!
        But shouldn’t you demonstrate that you are privy to the ethical structures of the JEWISH community in regards to the issues discussed here, as you attempt to impress with an “objective”, implicitely INFORMED stance !!
        As a mere Richard we can only recognise you as a moral non entity whose authority on the subject cannot be verified, except for the obvious intention of demonising the Jewish community by making completely gratuitous staements.

    • Lynne Newington says:

      Richard, I’m sorry I referred to you as ‘Oliver”, I had been discussing your comment with another.
      It was suggested that maybe an inquiry into the treatment of Jewish children referred to by Prof Glen Taylor, and my mind has been pre-occupied since.
      Why hasn’t this been brought to public attention by competant members of the Jewish community.
      John Searle for instance.
      Vaclav Havel is quoted as saying: Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible effect can gradually and indirectly, over time gain in politicalsignifiance.

  4. Vicki says:

    Manny, thank you so much for having the courage to speak out and demanding that there be an inquiry and investigation by your government. The only way things will ever change and there to be hope that our children will be safe is to do exactly this — investigate, expose and prosecute these types of criminal actions. You are definitely one of the heroes in the anti-rape movement. Thank you for doing what you’re doing.

  5. ANNE says:

    It takes a profound about of courage and spiritually ground strength and power to stand tall and clearly in the face of such pain and violation. It also takes the same to stand with and behind and for those who are willing to stand. Please stnd firm, and be encouraged. There are very, very, very few things that have more dire consequences of the souls and spirits of not only the children, but the families and comunities to whom they belong. On of the things that needs to be done is to put the same degree of intensity and energy on creating ways to honor the protect the children that we put ito the indignation and outrage expressed when abuse is fnally brought to light.

    We are all complicit in some way or another. There is no way out. If I knew and said nothing I am complict. If I did not know, I should have. To stand up with hue and cry after the fact is hollow and off-putting at best; it is repugnant and insuting at worst. The children deserve better.

    Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make a child’s eyes bright and clear again after they have been to the depths of the abyss?

  6. Lynne Newington says:

    Yes so do many others.
    Hat’s off to Premier Ted Ballieu, some issues are beyond political correctness, and has been a long time coming.
    Remeber a past comment on transparency?
    Good for you.
    Having done a Marriage Celebrants course, I have often wondered how ‘Ministers of a Recognised Denomination’, who as Agents of the Commonwealth, according to the Marriage Act [section 31], can remain ‘Fit and Proper Persons’ to solemnise marriages when found guilty through internal processes.

  7. Oliver says:

    Friends, am so distressed,at this revelation , I believed we were above all this. And as a Victim of The Vatican Institutionalised prisons, for 14 years, being released at 16 years of age, this claim is most distressing . Please, someone tell me that this is untrue. Oliver.

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