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Employment and Training's Westrek program in 1985
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Employment and Training's Westrek program in 1985 - this post is worth 43.05 Points

A second WA Government employee has backed allegations that senior bureaucrats failed to act when warned about child sex abuse taking place in the State-run hostel managed by paedophile Dennis John McKenna.

Patricia Thomson worked with the then Department of Employment and Training's Westrek program in 1985, when colleague Maggie Dawkins voiced concerns about the St Andrew's Hostel in Katanning. Westrek sent children to board at St Andrew's.

Now employed by a Government-funded service in Esperance, Ms Thomson said yesterday that she discussed McKenna with Mrs Dawkins several times. She said allegations of sexual abuse were reported to department supervisors.

"At that time I was working out of the department's head office," Ms Thomson said. "I knew exactly what was going on when Maggie was in Katanning."

In _The Weekend West _, Mrs Dawkins - the wife of former Federal treasurer John Dawkins - told of her frustration that McKenna was left in charge of the hostel for five years after she raised the alarm with her bosses, a Katanning councillor and police in 1985. A former hostel boarder told Mrs Dawkins that he had been plied with alcohol and molested by McKenna.

After raising the boy's claims, Mrs Dawkins said she was transferred out of the town within 48 hours.

The 66-year-old paedophile was last month jailed for the second time over a string of sex offences against male hostel boarders aged between 13 and 16.

His convictions so far relate to 11 victims who were boarders from Katanning Senior High School. Police are investigating other cases.

"I know that it bothered Maggie greatly that it wasn't followed up and nothing was done," Ms Thomson said.

"I know that she was called into head office for a showdown about the issues because of conversations I was privy to."

In another development, Labor MP Peter Watson is hoping to meet Attorney General Christian Porter this week to discuss the need for an inquiry into McKenna's 15-year reign over the hostel.

"People must have known," Mr Watson said. "There is something here that needs to be looked into and sorted out."

Set up by the then Labor government, Ms Thomson described the Westrek program as "highly political". Mrs Dawkins was working on secondment from then Federal defence minister Kim Beazley's office as a group leader for the program.

She has called for a royal commission into St Andrew's, which was also used to accommodate teenagers involved in the skills training program.

Before being arrested and charged in 1990, McKenna was lauded by Katanning's community leaders and given the town's citizen of the year award.

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11-07-2011 06:43 PM
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