Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
16 February 2017
Report into RG Dance and the Australian Institute of Music released
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s report of Case Study 37 – The responses of the Australian Institute of Music and RG Dance to allegations of child sexual abuse – was released today.
This report follows a public hearing held in Sydney in March 2016 which examined the experiences of students at RG Dance and the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) and the responses of both performing arts institutions to allegations of child sexual abuse.
Grant Davies, dance teacher and co-founder of RG Dance, was charged with 63 child sexual offences in 2013 when his wife found child pornography material and messages on his laptop and alerted police.
The charges related to various acts of child sexual abuse committed over a period of 13 years – between 2001 and 2013. His victims were aged between nine and 14. Grant Davies pleaded guilty to dozens of child sex abuse charges and was last year sentenced to maximum term of 24 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 18 years.
Three former students of RG Dance gave evidence at the Royal Commission public hearing that Grant Davies sexually abused them when they were children and students of RG Dance. The Royal Commission also heard evidence from parents about their children’s experiences.
The Royal Commission heard that Grant Davies used his position to groom students and commit child sexual abuse offences. He would also use social media to groom students while chatting with them online late into the night. He entered changing rooms unannounced, inappropriately touched students and made sexualised comments to them.
Many of these acts occurred in public places within RG Dance and were witnessed by parents, teachers, administrators and students, including Grant Davies’ sister and co-founder of the dance school, Rebecca Davies.
In 2007 complaints of child sexual abuse offences were made against Grant Davies to the police by a number RG Dance students. Although the NSW Police investigated the allegations, the matter did not proceed to a prosecution.
Ms Rebecca Davies confronted her brother but her efforts did not prevent him from continuing his behaviour. Further, Ms Rebecca Davies did not make inquiries about the outcome of the 2007 police investigation or satisfy herself that grant Davies was suitable to work with children. The Royal Commission found that parents of RG Dance students were not properly informed about allegations concerning Grant Davies’ behaviour or admissions made by him.
The parents of the children had a strong desire for their child to succeed at dance. This enabled Davies to groom the parents to comply with his wishes. The students, who were also keen to succeed, felt emotionally blackmailed and intimidated by him. Both the parents and the students feared that non-compliance with Davies’ requests would have a negative impact on their dance careers. As a result the reporting of the abuse was hindered and did not happen in a timely manner.
The Royal Commission found that Grant Davies’ offences occurred in a dance studio setting where there were no child protection policies or codes of conduct. The Royal Commission was also satisfied that RG Dance knowingly failed to comply with the requirements of Working with Children Checks during the operation of RG Dance.
Australian Institute of Music
The Royal Commission also examined the response of AIM to allegations of child sexual abuse against Ukrainian renowned pianist Victor Makarov. Makarov took up a position as head of the piano department at AIM in 1998 and taught there until 2004.
A former student of AIM gave evidence at the public hearing that Makarov sexually abused him at AIM as well as during lessons at Makarov’s home over a period of about 18 months.
In mid-February 2004, Makarov was charged with 11 child sexual offences. He continued to teach at AIM under supervision. In April 2004, the NSW Department of Education informed AIM that Makarov had been rated a ‘high level of risk’.
However, this did not prompt AIM to change its position not to suspend Makarov. In May 2004, AIM was notified that Makarov had been charged with a further 19 child sexual offences committed against AIM students. He continued to teach students at AIM, under restrictions.
Makarov was eventually convicted for child sex offences and subsequently jailed.
The Royal Commission found that AIM’s decision to permit Makarov to continue to teach did not adequately take into account the assessment of the NSW Department of Education and Training and further criminal charges laid against Makarov.
The Royal Commission also found that in not suspending Makarov, AIM did not take proper steps to protect the students at AIM. AIM’s response to the events in 2004 did not strike the right balance between the interests of students alleging child sexual abuse and those of the alleged perpetrator.
The Royal Commission determined that, at the time of the assaults, AIM did not have policies, procedures and systems in place to prevent, handle and receive complaints of allegations of child sexual abuse.