The former chief executive of Mallee District Aboriginal Services [MDAS] has admitted he put his hands up the dress of young woman he didn’t know at a Mildura bar while he was still at the helm of the organisation.
- Harold “Rudy” Kirby pleaded guilty to touching the woman “in a sexual manner without consent”
- The victim says the assault left her with anxiety and “sick” at the thought of returning to the venue
- The magistrate recused himself from the case after learning of Kirby’s links to the Koori Court
The incident, at the Sandbar nightspot, happened just before 2am on March 15 this year and was captured on CCTV.
Harold Rudolph “Rudy” Kirby, 47, was arrested and charged on April 1, and resigned from MDAS soon after, citing “personal and family reasons”.
But Mildura Magistrates Court heard Kirby took on an advisory role after his resignation “until the end of June, to assist in a handover”.
Kirby pleaded guilty on Tuesday to “touching in a sexual manner without consent”.
The court heard Kirby approached the woman, in her 20s, from behind and put his hands up her dress while she was standing with a friend inside the venue.
The woman turned and yelled at Kirby, who raised his hands and said: “Sorry.”
Kirby stayed at the bar and ordered another drink before bar staff alerted security, who escorted a stumbling Kirby out of the venue.
The court heard the woman was able to identify Kirby within hours by messaging people on social media and searching his name online.
She made a formal complaint to police later that day.
Magistrate steps aside
In a victim impact statement read to the court by a prosecutor, the woman said the assault left her struggling with anxiety, difficulty sleeping and traumatised at physical contact with others.
Kirby’s lawyer Hugh Middleton said there was “no excuse” for the assault but Kirby quickly took responsibility for the offence.
He said Kirby had been seeking help for mental health issues for three years, was on medication, and should not have been drinking on the night of the incident.
Mr Middleton submitted character references and said Kirby had “put his head above the parapet, so to speak, to rejuvenate the local Aboriginal organisation here in Mildura”.
MDAS provides health and wellbeing services to Aboriginal people across north-west Victoria and south-west New South Wales.
While Kirby was “in the process” of leaving MDAS, the assault and criminal charges “hastened his departure”, Mr Middleton said.
Mr Middleton asked Magistrate Michael Coghlan not to convict Kirby and to impose a fine.
But Mr Coghlan recused himself from the case after reading material submitted on Kirby’s behalf which outlined his history as a former Department of Justice staff member, manager with the Koori Court and the Mildura Justice Service.
Mr Coghlan, who has sat in the Koori Court for many years, said he felt he “would be placed in a very difficult position to deal with the matter” and consulted the chief magistrate before stepping aside.
Kirby will appear before a different magistrate by video link early next month.