Department imposes strict childcare conditions on YMCA New South Wales

January 31, 2014 – 3:38PM

Catherine Armitage

Senior Writer

Former Caringbah YMCA child care worker Jonathan Lord, jailed for child sex abuse.

Former Caringbah YMCA child care worker Jonathan Lord, jailed for child sex abuse.

A government department has written to YMCA NSW expressing doubt that it is a child-safe organisation and imposing tough new conditions on its childcare licence based on evidence from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

A year after one of its staff Jonathan Lord was jailed for molesting boys as young as six in his care, and a month after scorching publicity and damning evidence about lax child-safety practices, an inspection last November revealed some childcare staff at YMCA Caringbah where Lord worked were still ignorant of child-protection laws and their obligation to comply with them, the commission has been told.

A compliance notice dated January 17 from the NSW Department of Education and Communities to YMCA NSW chief executive officer Phillip Hare sets out strict conditions for continuation of the YMCA’s childcare licence, which must be met by April 30. The letter was tendered as evidence at the commission.

Jacqui Barnat

Jacqui Barnat, supervisor at YMCA Caringbah, where child molester Jonathan Lord worked. Photo: Supplied

They include introducing a new recruitment system; appointing independent third parties to do a “root cause analysis” of the Lord case and a culture review of the organisation; a review of its policy, reporting and whistleblower systems to better ensure staff understanding and compliance; and a review of its parent handbook to better communicate and explain its child-protection policies to parents.


Jacqui Barnat, the supervisor at YMCA Caringbah who hired Lord in contravention of YMCA NSW’s policies and without mandatory background checks, has been asked to show cause why her supervisor’s certificate should not be cancelled.

Ms Barnat was cited for failing to adhere to recruitment policies and practices, failure to adequately conduct staff recruitment, failure to provide ongoing training and failure to ensure working with children checks were obtained.

YMCA NSW  Chief Executive Phillip Hare

Under pressure: YMCA chief executive Phillip Hare.Photo: Kate Geraghty

The YMCA said it was working closely with the Department of Education and Communities towards compliance with the conditions imposed on it.

YMCA NSW claims 400,000 child “attendances” a year at its 41 before and after school care locations, although the number of children attending is much smaller because a child may attend multiple times.

Royal commission public hearings in October examined how Lord, since jailed for a minimum of six years for 13 offences involving 12 children, was able to groom and molest boys aged from six to 12 years for two years while employed at YMCA Caringbah from 2009.

Lord had been sent home in disgrace from a US summer camp after being discovered alone in a cabin with a boy.

In his job application to YMCA NSW, he expressed a wish to work with children in an atmosphere with “no walls or boundaries”.

His co-workers were aware of him frequently breaching child-safe policies, such as by having boys sit on his lap, babysitting them privately, having pictures of them on his mobile phone and being alone with them, but no breaches were reported.

Counsel assisting the royal commission concluded it was open to Commissioner Peter McClellan to find that YMCA NSW was not and is not a child-safe organisation and, on the basis of its management failures, its conduct before the royal commission and its written submission, may not have the capacity to become one.

YMCA NSW denies this. Its board of directors and chief executive acknowledge failures in its child-protection practices but its submission to the commission commits to “doing all it can” to improve, and promises to undertake specific remedial measures.

Those promises form the basis of the new conditions imposed on approval of its childcare licence.

The Sydney Morning Herald

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