Opera Australia acts over child abuse case
By Ashleigh Wilson
November 22, 2017
The national opera has warned staff it has a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying and discrimination and called for any people with concerns to come forward after a former Opera Australia chorus member was charged with historic child-sex offences.
David Lewis will face a Sydney court on December 5 after being charged with four counts of aggravated indecent assault of a victim under the age of 16 and two counts of sexual intercourse with a person 14 or over and under 16.
The abuse allegedly occurred in the mid-1990s. The alleged victim was then 14, and a member of the company’s children’s chorus, while Lewis was in his mid-30s.
In a letter to staff yesterday, OA chief executive Rory Jeffes said the company was made aware of the allegations in July this year. He said the company was taking the matter seriously, and had been co-operating fully with police.
“Due to the nature of the charges Opera Australia took immediate action to stand David Lewis down and require that he stay away from the workplace,” Mr Jeffes said. “He has not participated in any company activity since then and he is no longer an employee of Opera Australia.”
Mr Jeffes said the company had no record of any previous allegations against Lewis.
“I remind everyone that the company has a zero-tolerance policy to bullying, discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” he wrote. “The emotional and physical safety of employees, contractors and the broader Opera Australia community is paramount and it is the responsibility of all of us to live by that standard and to raise any concerns.”
Mr Jeffes also reacted angrily to an unnamed employee quoted by Fairfax Media comparing the company with the Catholic Church.
“This presumably implies a similarity to the appalling revelations relating to child sexual abuse that have surfaced over recent times in that institution,” he wrote.
“As a comment by anyone, let alone an employee, this appears indefensible, disingenuous and frankly outrageous.”