NT's Yirara College subject of child abuse royal commission information request spanning 23 year

By Sally Brooks
ABC News
April 10, 2016

The commission has requested information from 1992 until 2015.

Steven Larkins, a convicted pedophile, who worked at Yirara College as a boarding house parent in 1999.

Yirara College students, pictured in a publicity photo from the college's Facebook page.

The royal commission into child sexual abuse has requested more than two decades of information from the Lutheran Church about an Aboriginal boarding school in Alice Springs.

Yirara College of the Finke River Mission is ultimately run by the Lutheran Schools Association, a mission arm of the Lutheran Church of Australia, located in North Adelaide.

Indigenous secondary students from remote Northern Territory communities and other jurisdictions travel hundreds of kilometres to board at the school.

In a statement, the Lutheran Schools Association for South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had asked for information spanning 23 years.

"We confirm that the royal commission has sought information about Yirara College for the period 1992-2015," the association's executive director John Proeve said.

"We have sought advice from the royal commission and it advises us not to discuss the matter in any way.

"We support the royal commission and continue to assist in every way we can."

The ABC has no information to suggest that the royal commission is investigating any specific allegations of child sexual abuse at the school.

The commission has also asked the Northern Territory Education Department for documents related to Yirara College.

"The royal commission requested a range of information in relation to Yirara College in Alice Springs," the department's registrar of non-government schools, Dr Kevin Gillian, said in a statement.

"The department responded to the requests and has not been asked to provide any further information."

In addition to the royal commission's information requests, the ABC understands two people with concerns about management and procedures related to student and staff welfare at the school met with the commission in Adelaide in 2014.

And former Yirara College boarding house parent Karl Bajzik said he attended a meeting with commission staff about the school in Alice Springs in January.

"It was a group of people involved with the royal commission, really what other interviews they conducted I am not sure, but they were certainly investigating Yirara," he said.

The school has also previously been linked to convicted paedophile Steven Larkins who has been the subject of a royal commission public hearing.

In 2012, Larkins pleaded guilty to and was convicted of a number of offences including the aggravated assault of two children.

The commission's first public hearing in Sydney in 2013 examined the response of several organisations to information about Larkins.

About two months after this hearing, the ABC reported Larkins had worked at Yirara College as a boarding house parent from January 25 to March 28 in 1999.

The ABC also then reported that Larkins had been sighted at the college about 10 years after his tenure finished.

His employment at the school was listed on his CV which was tendered during the commission hearing.

The ABC has no information to suggest Larkins engaged in any improper conduct while a house parent at Yirara or during his subsequent visits to the school.


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