ROBERT John Beavis was in his 30s in 2004 when he sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl at his Belmont home.
The offences occurred nearly six years after the family of an eight-year-old girl reported a child sex allegation against him to police but did not pursue criminal proceedings because of her age. The family of the 10-year-old girl also did not pursue criminal proceedings in 2004 because of her age.
In December Beavis, 52, was jailed for eight years, with a minimum sentence of four years and 10 months, after a jury in October found him guilty of five serious child sex offences against the 10-year-old girl in 2004. The trial included evidence from that victim, and the woman whose family made an allegation to police on her behalf in 1998.
Families of the women say the Beavis case raises questions about Surf Life Saving Australia’s child protection policies after Beavis remained a prominent member of the movement at local, regional, state and national events until a police investigation that led to formal charges against him in June, 2016.
One of the families had contact with Beavis through a Hunter surf club. Both families say allegations against Beavis were raised with the Surf Life Saving movement at the time they were disclosed by the children.
The mother of the girl sexually abused when she was 10 said she was proud of her daughter for standing up against her abuser and giving evidence on behalf of children.
In a submission to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing in April, 2016 – two months before Beavis was charged – Surf Life Saving Australia chief executive Melissa King conceded the size, federated structure and limited national resources available to Surf Life Saving Australia were issues for the organisation.
“Those who operate at club level are often beyond the direct supervision and control of Surf Life Saving Australia,” Ms King said.
“On that basis Surf Life Saving Australia is not able to monitor and ensure 100 per cent compliance with policies at every club in Australia all of the time.
“Because of the nature and structure of the organisation SLSA is required to put significant trust in those at lower levels in the organisation that they will abide by SLSA's policies at all times.”
Ms King said the organisation had been “proactive” in “enhancing child safe practices” in the organisation since a member protection policy was developed in 1999.
The royal commission was told Surf Life Saving Australia had more than 77,000 members under 18 years of age. A child protection audit prompted by the royal commission found some issues requiring immediate action.