Child abuse accusations shock Qld arts sector

A senior figure in the performing arts has been charged with multiple sexual offences against boys as young as 12 over a 20-year period.
child abuse

A senior figure at a Brisbane performing arts company appeared before the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Saturday 5 November charged with numerous child abuse and other sexual offences over a 20-year period.

Police will allege that the 41-year-old Bridgeman Downs man exploited his influential position in the sector to sexually assault eight boys and men, aged between 12 and 29 years old, between 2001 and 2021.

The eight survivors were allegedly students or employees of the performing arts company at the time of the assaults.

The 41-year-old was arrested without incident on Friday 4 November following investigations by Operation Uniform Cartograph.

He has been charged with 69 offences including indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, rape, attempted rape, recordings in breach of privacy, fraud and common assault.

A second man, aged 35 and known to the 41-year-old, has also been charged following the police investigation.

The 35-year-old, who also conducted work with the performing arts company in question, has been changed with six offences including rape, attempted rape and sexual assault.

Queensland’s Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 prohibits the premature publication of the accused men’s names and place of employment.

Sector shocked

News of the alleged crimes has shocked the wider performing arts sector.

A former employee of the performing arts company in question reflected on the impact of the alleged crimes, both on the survivors specifically and on Brisbane’s arts ecology more broadly.

‘I feel for the eight survivors … and for all that have been taken advantage of … How many creatives have we lost because of their actions?’ said the former employee.

‘The impact this has on our theatre’s ecosystem is not lost on me either. Generations of artists have been fighting for Brisbane to be a creatively viable place and this mars that progress.’

The former employee finished by thanking the ‘incredibly brave men who have fought for this. You have done your world so much good by speaking up. You have my undivided support. I am indebted to your vulnerability’.

Tallulah M E Grey, President of Brisbane Arts Theatre, also expressed her shock and concern.

In a media statement released on Saturday, Grey said: ‘Like all others in Brisbane’s arts community, we at Brisbane Arts Theatre were shocked by the distressing news … Our thoughts are with those affected by this situation and their families, as well as the theatre company involved and its wider community.’

She added: ‘The safety of our community, especially our youngest members, is of paramount importance to all of us at Brisbane Arts Theatre.’

Investigations continue

Queensland Police’s media release about the arrests states: ‘If you’ve experienced sexual assault, it is not your fault and you are not alone,’ and detectives have appealed for anyone with information about the case to contact them.

Following Saturday’s preliminary hearing, Magistrate Annette Hennessy granted bail for the 41-year-old on the condition he does not contact the alleged victims and does not return to his place of work.

The 35-year-old was also granted bail.

Their cases were adjourned until 19 December.

For confidential information, counselling and support, call the national Sexual Assault Helpline on 1800 010 120 or 1800 RESPECT for 24-hour help.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts