Chief monk faces court over child sex abuse at temples

Vijitha Naotunne covered his robes with a trench coat and wore an orange beanie as he exited court.

Vijitha Naotunne covered his robes with a trench coat and wore an orange beanie as he exited court. Photo: AAP

A high-ranking Buddhist monk has faced court charged with sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated against children he met through working at two Melbourne temples.

Vijitha Naotunne, 68, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday dressed in traditional orange robes, after being charged with 13 offences dating back to the mid-1990s.

He is the chief incumbent at the Dhamma Sarana Sri Lankan Buddhist temple, in Melbourne’s southeast, and has run a Sunday school attended by hundreds of children.

Naotunne was charged by Sexual Crimes Squad detectives on Wednesday with 13 offences, including sexual penetration and indecent acts with children under 16.

Police will allege he sexually abused three child victims between 1996 and 2004, whom he met through his work at temples in Springvale and Keysborough.

Naotunne allegedly used school items, including a pink eraser and a clear plastic ruler, to commit some of the abuse, court documents stated.

The chief monk is alleged to have committed eight of the sex offences in Springvale, between 1996 and 1998, and five in Keysborough, between 2001 and 2003.

He was silent as he sat behind his lawyer for the brief hearing, where new court dates were set for the matter.

Naotunne, who is yet to enter a plea, was asked to stand by the magistrate as she extended his bail until his next court appearance in November.

He arrived in Australia in 1993 and served as resident monk at a Springvale temple, before moving to the Keysborough temple in 2001, according to Dhammma Sarana’s website.

Naotunne provides regular Buddhist services at the temple, including “a very successful Sunday School”, which is attended by more than 300 children.

“His rapport and popularity with children has been exceptionally noteworthy,” the website said.

He has received a number of awards over the years for his service, including Chief Sanghanayaka for Australia by the Ramanna Nikaya, a major Buddhist order in Sri Lanka.

Naotunne, who covered his robes with a trench coat and wore an orange beanie as he exited court, will return for a committal mention on November 10.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.