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TWO men preyed on vulnerable Hunter children for decades despite allegations to government departments, but only one case is before the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse starting on Monday.
The case of jailed former Hunter Aboriginal Children’s Services chief executive Steven Larkins will open the first public hearings of the Royal Commission in Sydney.
The case of the second jailed man, self-appointed ‘‘volunteer carer’’ Robert Holland, ended in 2009 when he died after a court heard authorities failed to act on allegations he was sexually abusing children in his care, including Aboriginal children.
Now two female victims of Holland are accusing the NSW government of further betrayal over compensation.
The women were repeatedly sexually abused by Holland in the 1980s while he received government funding for being their ‘‘carer’’.
Their likely victims’ compensation has been slashed from $50,000 to $15,000.
And while they lodged their claims in June and July 2010, before the government changed compensation rules this year, they might not receive any compensation until 2015.
‘‘It is a double slap in the face for them,’’ Newcastle solicitor Kate Maher, of Braye Cragg, said.
‘‘The offender died before he was sentenced, and the compensation they’re entitled to has been reduced through no fault of their own. We’ve been advised it might take until 2015 for claims to be finalised.’’
The government’s decision to apply its newly reduced compensation regime retrospectively meant the two women suffered an immediate loss.
Their applications have been held up in a Victims’ Services backlog for three years.
‘‘Their claims have just languished for years,’’ Ms Maher said.
‘‘One of them said to me, ‘I feel like I’m not worth anything’.’’
During separate trials of Holland in 2009 and Larkins in 2012, there was evidence that both men were able to continue offending despite allegations to government departments.
In Larkins’s case there were also reports to Scouts Australia.
A Department of Community Services file at Holland’s trial showed the department received the first complaint about him from a child in 1983.
The department continued to place children with Holland ‘‘despite numerous allegations of assault made by various and numerous young persons’’, his trial was told.
The two women who lodged compensation claims with Victims’ Services in 2010 were ‘‘signed over to his care as children’’, Ms Maher said.
His death and the ‘‘unofficial’’ nature of his ‘‘care’’ service, despite receiving government benefits, meant legal action through the courts was difficult.
Abbott gives commitment
PRIME Minister-elect Tony Abbott has confirmed his commitment to the royal commission into child sex abuse after victims’ groups expressed concerns about the commission’s future under his government.
A spokesman for Mr Abbott’s office said ‘‘the incoming government has the same level of commitment to the royal commission’’ as the Gillard and Rudd governments.
“As a community, we must have zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of children,’’ Mr Abbott said.
‘‘Wherever abuse has occurred, it must be tackled and it must be tackled vigorously, openly and transparently. Victims must be allowed to heal, and perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
In November last year, Mr Abbott announced his support for a royal commission before then prime minister Julia Gillard announced one.
Paterson MP Bob Baldwin said it was critical that the truth about perpetrators and systemic failings that allowed sexual abuse of children was exposed.
The government was committed to the inquiry, he said.
‘‘Once you start a royal commission, it’s pretty hard to shut down.’’
He encouraged victims and people with knowledge of sexual abuse of children in institutions to come forward.