16 February 2024

Witnesses to alleged historical sex abuse at juvenile centre sought as legal probe centres on senior figure

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
Start the conversation
Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre

The Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre was established in 1984 by the Department of Youth and Community Services for young men on control orders or remanded in custody. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses child sex abuse.

Lawyers are urging witnesses to come forward with any information about the alleged historical sexual abuse by an authority figure at the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre in Wagga during the late 1980s and the ’90s.

In 1984, the Department of Youth and Community Services established the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre for the reception of young men on control orders or remanded in custody and accommodating a maximum of 45 people.

Law firm Slater and Gordon is investigating the alleged abuse of young detainees by a now-deceased superintendent, and said any information may assist survivors of the alleged abuse.

“We currently hold instructions from a client who says they suffered severe sexual abuse at the hands of this man,” said Slater and Gordon associate in abuse law Selva Dankha.

“This man served in his role for approximately 22 years and was otherwise ‘well regarded’ as an employee before his passing.

“He was involved in accompanying young detainees to and from camp-style programs run at the facility and is alleged to have committed acts of abuse within Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre and on the bus to and from these camp-style programs.”

READ ALSO Letter from the Editor: Plenty of farmers are fine with renewables (take it from one)

Ms Dankha said the abuse had left a devastating impact on her client’s life, and the firm was seeking other victims and witnesses to come forward.

“Help us get them the justice, closure and compensation they need and deserve,” she said.

Ms Dankha explained there was no longer a time limit on when a child-sex abuse compensation claim could be made under NSW law.

The law allows the victims to pursue a claim for damages regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

The legislation passed in 2021 allows the court to set aside unfair settlements previously reached with churches and other institutions.

Survivors were previously forced to sign gag orders, which prevented them from speaking publicly about what they endured, which can now also be lifted.

“To date, there have been many survivors who have had to suffer by being withheld from seeking justice from institutions that threaten permanent stays due to the alleged abuser being deceased,” she said.

“A permanent stay essentially means that a survivor’s claim, entitlement to damages and road to justice are ceased permanently.

“It ignores the fact that adult claimants were once vulnerable young children who believed the threats of their abusers and who never dared to report the abuse. Permanent stays are largely a risk in matters that involve deceased perpetrators.”

READ ALSO Inquiry reveals why Australia is stuck in a rut when it comes to extreme weather’s toll on roads

Ms Dankha said while the abuse claims were historical, the firm believed the courts and defendants had to accept that it takes decades for victims of child abuse to come forth with their stories.

“We must not be surprised if perpetrators of abuse are now deceased, which is why we’re also calling for witnesses in relation to the deceased prior superintendent of Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre,” she said.

“We believe there could be potential witnesses living in NSW or interstate who are able to help us understand the extent of sexual abuse perpetrated by this ex-superintendent of Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre.

“If you suffered or witnessed abuse by this man or any others at Riverina Juvenile Justice, please do not hesitate to reach out to Slater and Gordon Lawyers.”

Any information the law firm receives will be treated confidentially. Witnesses are urged to call Slater and Gordon on 1800 565 892.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732 or by visiting www.1800respect.org.au. Help and support are also available through the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017 and Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call triple zero.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.