Friday, 8 May 2015

The fate of one whistleblower whose evidence was presented to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse

Extract from Australian Newspaper History Group May 2015 newsletter:

82.1.1. Jewish newspaper and a whistleblower

The Australian Jewish News (AJN) has made a senior journalist redundant after he passed on information that helped a royal commission and led to the resignation of Australia’s most senior Rabbi (Australian, Media section, 2 March 2015). Adam Kamien, who had worked for AJN since 2006, became the only person in the newsroom to be made redundant following an internal investigation into how text messages ended up being used by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The text message, sent from the Rabbi Meir Kluwgant to the editor of the AJN, Zeddy Lawrence, and read out at the royal commission, described the father of an abuse victim as a “lunatic” who neglected his children. “Zephaniah is killing us. Zephaniah is attacking Chabad. He is a lunatic on the fringe, guilty of neglect of his own children. Where was he when all this was happening?” Under intense cross examination, Rabbi Kluwgant said he sent the message to Lawrence during the commission evidence of Zephaniah Waks, father of victim and whistleblower Manny Waks. Soon after admitting to the text, Rabbi Kluwgant resigned as president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia.

Yeshiva College sex abuse victim Manny Waks told the Australian Kamien was a whistleblower who courageously ensured that justice was done. “In my view it’s clear that the journalist was effectively dismissed for disclosing to me a vital bit of evidence for submission to the royal commission,” he said. “Had the text message not been disclosed, Rabbi Kluwgant would probably still have his senior leadership positions and victims and their families would still be accused of exaggerating the intimidation. The journalist’s disclosure ensured the truth was told. It vindicated us fully.”

The AJN launched an internal investigation into how the text message found its way to the royal commission and Kamien was suspended on full pay pending the outcome of an investigation. A few days later the AJN confirmed it had concluded its investigation and would “take no further action in relation to the matter”. But on Friday, 27 February, group general manager Rod Kenning sent an email to staff saying that Kamien’s position as senior journalist had become redundant as part of a restructure of the editorial team.

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