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Ian Dallas

Published: 29 April 2021
Author: Ian Dallas

Ballarat Orphanage sex abuse uncovered

Another coverup of child sexual abuse has been discovered, this time involving the Ballarat Orphanage.

The ABC Background Briefing program has revealed that the superintendent of the orphanage in 1964, Hylton Sedgman, was engaged in sexual and physical abuse of children at the orphanage. Although his criminal behaviour was investigated by the police, significant pressure at a political level by the Board of the Orphanage resulted in the charges being dropped to protect the reputation of the Orphanage.

There was an extensive police investigation at the time with 19 witness statements taken from children and former staff. The police took the allegations seriously and it appears they were ready to lay charges. However, there was significant pressure from the Board of the orphanage at a political level for the matter to be handled internally away from the public eye. The president of the board wrote directly to the chief commissioner pressing the police not to involve the institution which: “enjoys an unblemished record dating back almost 100 years”.

This correspondence also reveals that scandalously, the Board president had confronted some of the young girls making these allegations.

The ABC story reveals that the Chief Commissioner, requested the Solicitor-General to review the matter. The Solicitor-General’s advice, heavily influenced by the Board’s request, was that and seemed very hesitant to take the evidence of the witnesses seriously. The day before the 1964 state election, the police shelved the investigation.

The Solicitor-General at the time was Henry Winneke, later to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Governor of Victoria.

Some of these charges were revived with a fresh prosecution of Sedgman in 2014. However, due to his age and alleged dementia, the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the charges against the 88 year old.

The impact of Sedgman’s behaviour, swept under the carpet by the Board to protect the “reputation” of the Orphanage, continues to impact the lives of the men and women who were abused by Sedgman so many years ago. Finally, the Orphanage, through its successor, Child and Family Services, is being held to account as legal claims continue to be made in respect of Sedgman and others in authority at the Orphanage.

Additional allegations against board members

RCT Law has made many claims involving the abuse of children at the Ballarat Orphanage.

It is apparent from those cases that Sedgman is not the only senior figure who was engaged in serial abuse. Significant allegations have been made in respect of members of the Board, who it appears had access to children and on many occasions took the opportunity to abuse those children.

RCT Law is ready to hear the stories of survivors of the Ballarat Orphanage and to stand up for them to claim the damages that they rightly deserve.

If you suffered abuse as a Ward of the State, we encourage you to reach out to us via 1300 366 441 or enquiries@rctlaw.com.au. RCT Law comprises 22 offices and more than 150 staff at locations across metropolitan and regional Victoria.

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