St Andrew's Hostel was established by the Anglican Diocese of Bunbury in 1964 as a hostel for students going to school in Katanning. It was one of the Country High School Hostels Authority hostels. From 1975, some students were subject to sexual abuse and their advocacy as adults resulted in a Special Inquiry into St Andrew's Hostel in 2011. The hostel, which was known as the Katanning Residential College by the 1990s, struggled to overcome the damage to its reputation. It closed in 2009.
St Andrew's Hostel was established by the Anglican Diocese of Bunbury in 1964 as a hostel for students going to school in Katanning. It was governed by the Country High School Hostels Authority ('the Authority'), and built with government funds, but was administered by the Bunbury Diocese until 1971 when a board was appointed to run the Hostel under a 'letter of arrangement' between the church and the Authority. The hostel grew until 1970, when it experienced a period of instability and falling numbers.
In September 1975, the board appointed a new housemaster, Dennis McKenna. By February 1976, McKenna had been made warden. He remained in that position until arrested for sexual abuse of children in 1990. Dennis McKenna had recruited six members of his family into staff positions in the Hostel and when he was arrested the board upgraded his brother Neil McKenna from supervisor to acting warden.
Dennis McKenna was convicted of 19 offences against five victims in 1991, released from prison in 1993 and convicted of an additional 10 offences against another six victims in 2010. In 2012 he had a further 66 charges pending. In March 2012, Neil McKenna was convicted of three charges of sexual abuse of a 15 year old girl.
The first allegations of sexual abuse by Dennis McKenna surfaced in 1976 but no action was taken against him for 14 years. In November 2011, the Premier of Western Australia announced that a Special Inquiry would be held to examine why public officers had not acted on reports of abuse at St Andrew's Hostel. The report from this Inquiry was tabled in parliament on 19 September 2012 with all recommendations accepted by the government. The Government and Opposition offered apologies to victims and their families.
The Hostel, which was known as the Katanning Residential College by the 1990s, struggled to overcome the damage to its reputation. It closed in 2009.
St Andrew's Hostel was established with 48 students in 1964. New buildings in 1968 saw the Hostel population rise and by 1970 there were 100 boarders. However, by 1975 after a period of instability on the board and a high number of staff turnovers, numbers had fallen to 50 students. The appointment of staff had always been the responsibility of the Hostel's administrator (the Anglican Diocese of Bunbury until 1970 and the Hostel board from 1971). In 1975, the board appointed a new housemaster, Dennis McKenna, who was 29 years old and had been 'working temporarily as an Assistant Manager at the Freecorns store in Narrogin.' With no experience in this type of role, but a glowing reference from a Catholic youth group, McKenna was employed. The warden and matron left within a few months and McKenna was appointed to the acting warden position in December 1975 and then appointed to the warden's position in February 1976. During his period as warden, Dennis McKenna appointed two of his brothers and four of his brothers' wives to fill vacant positions at the Hostel. When Dennis McKenna was arrested for sexual abuse of children in 1990, the board upgraded his brother Neil from supervisor to acting warden.
In two trials (1991 and 2010), Dennis McKenna has been convicted of 29 offences against 11 people who were 14-16 years old at the time the offences occurred. All but one of the offences occurred in his flat in the Hostel. His convictions include:
The 'Katanning Residential College', the name St Andrew's was known by in later years, was one of the facilities listed as eligible for the State Government's scheme to acknowledge abuse in out of home care, Redress WA. Eighteen people who were at St Andrew's Hostel as children applied to Redress WA, with 12 people alleging sexual abuse by Dennis McKenna. Three people chose not to have their cases referred to the WA Police.
When the report of the Special Inquiry was tabled in parliament, there had been an additional 66 charges of sexual abuse from 15 new claimants laid against Dennis McKenna, investigations into claims made by three other people against him, and a further charge against another (unnamed) staff member.
In March 2012, Neil McKenna was convicted of unlawful and indecent assault (two offences) and sexual penetration without consent (one offence) of a girl under the age of 16 years and was committed to a term of six years and three months imprisonment, with parole.
In 1976 the first allegations of sexual abuse by Dennis McKenna had surfaced but no action was taken against him then, nor yet for another 14 years. In November 2011, the Premier of Western Australia announced that a Special Inquiry would be held to examine why public officers had not acted on reports of abuse at St Andrew's Hostel. The Special Inquiry found that:
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Division 31: Country High School Hostels Authority, $11 827 000 [Katanning Residential College]', in Parliament of Western Australia website, Parliament of Western Australia, 27 May 2009, http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard%5Chansard.nsf/0/dcc083bdd946af09c82575e1000e42f0/$FILE/A38%20S1%2020090527%20p252c-255a.pdf. Page 2.; 'Blaxell Inquiry Report - 'St Andrew's Hostel Katanning: How the system and society failed our children' [Hansard p6137b-6142a]', in Parliament of Western Australia website, Parliament of Western Australia, 19 September 2012, http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/Hansard%5Chansard.nsf/0/0f81bc5d8a1b2cc048257afc000cdf7c/$FILE/A38%20S1%2020120919%20p6137b-6142a.pdf. p.1-4.; Public Sector Commission, St Andrew's Hostel Inquiry, Government of Western Australia, 19 September 2012, http://www.publicsector.wa.gov.au/public-administration/sector-performance-and-oversight/reviews-investigations-and-special-inquiries/special-inquiries/st-andrews-hostel-inquiry. pp.1, 24-27, 29-32, 35, 65-111, 115-177, 183-191, 211-232..
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 16 January 2012, Last modified: 28 January 2015