Overview

The Terms of Reference for the Board of Inquiry required examination of experiences of child sexual abuse reported to have occurred at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1960s and 1970s, and at certain other government schools in Victoria from the 1960s to the end of 1999.1

While the work of the Board of Inquiry was not limited to Beaumaris Primary School in the 1960s and 1970s, and extended to certain other government schools through to the end of 1999, most of the victim-survivors who came forward reported child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1960s and 1970s. Accordingly, much of the Board of Inquiry’s work focused on this period.

It was, in many ways, a very different time. Laws and policies designed to safeguard children’s rights and safety were far less sophisticated than they are today. Significant trust was placed in institutions and people in authority to keep children safe and act in their best interests. Despite child sexual abuse being acknowledged as legally and morally wrong, it was under-estimated and neglected by governments, which saw it as a policy problem. This, in turn, affected the quality of laws concerning child sexual abuse, and compromised protection of children and support for victim-survivors. Its prevalence was largely concealed by denial, a lack of understanding and shame.

Children were far less empowered than they are today. They were expected to be obedient and deferential to adults around them, to stay out of trouble and to avoid creating problems for their families. Child sexual abuse was a taboo subject. Children were not taught about their right to bodily autonomy and what to do if they were harmed or felt unsafe. Social norms that promoted rigid gender roles, tolerated homophobia and discrimination, and reflected misconceptions about children’s reliability also worked to enforce their silence or to downplay or dismiss disclosures when they were made. By contrast, perpetrators who were liked and respected in the community, particularly if they occupied trusted positions, often carried great power and influence, which further discouraged victims from speaking up.

This Part begins by outlining important historical context needed to understand how laws, policies, social norms and community attitudes shaped how child sexual abuse was understood and addressed, primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. It begins by outlining relevant laws and government policies, and describes the child protection and criminal justice systems at the time. It then explores broader social and political forces that dominated this period — flowing from global trends through to the local level. Importantly, it describes some particular norms and attitudes that contributed to how child sexual abuse was viewed and addressed.

This context is offered not to excuse child sexual abuse or poor responses to it. It is included to help illustrate the very real barriers children faced at the time of their sexual abuse. It reminds us of the many factors that would have affected their ability to recognise and report their sexual abuse in a society that largely denied them a voice, was sceptical of the reliability of their disclosures, and wrongly attributed blame and shame to them rather than to perpetrators.

There have been significant shifts in awareness of and action in response to child sexual abuse since the 1960s and 1970s, but many challenges associated with preventing and responding to child sexual abuse are enduring. While some of the attitudes and practices described in this Part are difficult to comprehend by today’s standards, the insidious nature of child sexual abuse and its devastating impacts remain the same. It is a reminder that although much has improved, there is still more work to be done.

This Part then goes on to share the recollections of victim-survivors who came forward, not only in relation to their experience of sexual abuse as a child, but also as to how their experience affected them at different stages of their lives. Relevant literature and expert evidence are included to demonstrate how these recollections are consistent with what is now known and understood about child sexual abuse, and to explain how the effects of sexual abuse can be more broadly felt — by other individuals, communities and society.

The Part has five chapters:

  • Chapter 5, Children’s rights and safety in context(opens in a new window), provides a brief overview of the key laws and policies concerning children’s rights and safety and the protection of children against sexual abuse, and outlines relevant features of the child protection and criminal justice systems during the 1960s and 1970s. It also addresses the extent to which the education system recognised and guarded against the risk of sexual abuse of students by teachers.
  • Chapter 6, Time and place(opens in a new window), considers how the broader social context in this period influenced attitudes towards children and understandings of child sexual abuse, explaining the dominant norms and attitudes that shaped how child sexual abuse was understood and responded to.
  • Chapter 7, Experiences of sexual abuse and its impact on their childhood(opens in a new window), details the experiences of victim-survivors of child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School and certain other government schools, drawing on their recollections of the sexual abuse, their immediate reactions to it and how it affected them during their childhood and adolescence.
  • Chapter 8, Enduring impacts of child sexual abuse, explains the longer-term impacts of the child sexual abuse. It also explains the secondary impacts felt over time by families and friends of victim-survivors (described as ‘secondary victims’ in this report), affected communities and society.
  • Chapter 9, Personal stories, details, in their own words, victim-survivors’ and secondary victims’ personal experiences of child sexual abuse, as shared directly with the Board of Inquiry.

Notes to readers

Experiences of victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members

Throughout this report, the Board of Inquiry shares information that reflects some of the experiences that victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members shared with the Board of Inquiry.

The Board of Inquiry is deeply grateful to the victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members who so courageously shared their experiences of child sexual abuse. The Board of Inquiry also acknowledges those victim-survivors who have chosen not to disclose their experiences of child sexual abuse, and may never do so, including those who are no longer with us.

The Board of Inquiry asked people who engaged with it how they wanted their information to be managed. Some wished to share their experiences publicly. Some wished to do so anonymously and others wished to do so confidentially. Where people shared their experiences anonymously, the Board of Inquiry has not included any identifying information in this report. Where people shared their experiences confidentially, the Board of Inquiry used this information to inform its work, but has not included it in this report.

In relation to those who wished to share their experiences publicly, in some cases the Board of Inquiry determined that it should anonymise the information they shared. This decision was made for legal or related reasons, including in order to avoid causing prejudice to any current or future criminal or civil proceedings.

The Board of Inquiry shares the experiences of victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members to create an important public record of their recollections. However, the Board of Inquiry has not examined or tested these accounts for accuracy or weighed whether there is enough evidence to support criminal or civil proceedings. The approach the Board of Inquiry has taken in this regard is consistent with its objectives and its Terms of Reference.2

The Board of Inquiry expresses its immense gratitude to all who contributed, in any way, to its work. Those who shared their experiences have shaped the Board of Inquiry’s general findings and recommendations, and contributed to a shared understanding, among all Victorians, of the impact of child sexual abuse. The Board of Inquiry expects this report will reinforce the community’s commitment to better protect children from harm and sexual abuse into the future.

Relevant employees

In the Terms of Reference, ‘relevant employee’ is defined to mean ‘a teacher or other government school employee or contractor who sexually abused a student at Beaumaris Primary School during the 1960s or 1970s’.3 The Board of Inquiry’s work has confirmed that several of these relevant employees have been convicted of multiple offences, including indecent assault and other offences against children. However, for various reasons, most of the experiences of child sexual abuse shared with the Board of Inquiry did not result (or have not yet resulted) in a criminal conviction. Accordingly, this Part refers to ‘alleged perpetrators’.

While the Board of Inquiry recognises that some of these alleged perpetrators have been convicted of offences and their child sexual abuse in relation to these offences is no longer ‘alleged’, in order to treat all experiences shared with the Board of Inquiry in the same way, and to avoid causing prejudice to any current or future criminal or civil proceedings, this Part still refers to them as ‘alleged perpetrators’. In doing so, the Board of Inquiry does not intend to devalue or minimise any of the experiences shared by victim-survivors, secondary victims or affected community members.

Chapter 5

Children’s rights and safety in context

Introduction

This Chapter provides a brief overview of the extent to which children’s rights were recognised and their safety was protected in Australia during the 1960s and 1970s, and from the 1980s. It describes the status of children’s human rights under international law and the extent to which this influenced Australian domestic law and policy. It outlines the extent to which the child protection and criminal justice systems recognised and understood child abuse, including child sexual abuse. Finally, it considers the extent to which the education system recognised and guarded against the risk of sexual abuse of students by teachers.

Legislation and government policies relating to children’s rights and safety in the 1960s and 1970s

Children’s rights: in theory rather than practice

Despite the emergence of the global children’s rights movement in the early twentieth century, the Board of Inquiry heard expert evidence that there was little public discussion about children’s human rights in Australia in the 1960s.1

In 1959, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959 Declaration).2 The 1959 Declaration established 10 principles for the protection of children, which expanded on the rights relating to the protection of children against neglect and harm outlined in an earlier Declaration of the Rights of the Child, developed by the League of Nations in 1924.3

However, the 1959 Declaration did not immediately influence the public consciousness in Australia. The evidence to the Board of Inquiry of Dr Katie Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University, was that although attitudes were changing at this time, it ‘was not until later that children were widely viewed as rights bearers’.4

The limited understanding of children’s rights in the 1960s and 1970s is highlighted by the notion, dominant at the time, that children should be ‘seen, not heard’.5 The failure to recognise children as having rights also contributed, as Dr Wright explained in her evidence, to a culture where ‘children’s views and concerns were often dismissed’.6

By the late 1970s, awareness of children’s rights was building, prompted in part by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaiming the International Year of the Child in 1979.7

However, as discussed later in this Chapter, the Board of Inquiry heard expert evidence that it was not until 1990, with Australia’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), that children’s rights ‘came to the fore’.8

Limited awareness of child sexual abuse within the child protection system

While understandings of children’s rights in Australia were increasing by the late 1970s, child sexual abuse had not been a predominant focus of child protection or child welfare in the 1960s and 1970s.9 This reflected the community’s limited awareness of child sexual abuse during this time, as discussed in Chapter 6, Time and place(opens in a new window).

Various forms of ‘protection’ for children have existed in Australia since the early periods of colonisation. Initially, however, these focused more on ‘protecting’ the state from the ‘danger’ that neglected children were considered to pose to public order.10

From the early twentieth century, the concept of ‘protection’ shifted to protecting children from a failed duty of care by caregivers.11 Despite this shift, his Honour John Fogarty AM (writing extra-judicially) said that ‘even then, in reality, society was concerned with saving itself from the public actions of abused and deserted children, and especially the protection of property’.12

State-sanctioned ‘child protection’ laws and policies enabled governments, churches and other welfare bodies to forcibly remove First Nations children from their families, creating Australia’s Stolen Generations.13 These laws and policies, which began as early as the mid-1800s and continued into the 1970s, inflicted ‘profound grief, loss and suffering’ on First Nations children and families, and the broader Australian community.14 The legacy of these practices endures today.15

With regard to child sexual abuse, Professor Leah Bromfield, Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection and Chair of Child Protection, University of South Australia, explained that early conceptualisations of child welfare and child protection did not encompass child sexual abuse.16 The child protection system primarily focused on child neglect and physical abuse.17

During the mid-1960s, there was emerging public attention regarding child abuse.18 This was partly due to a study in the United States of America on child maltreatment by C Henry Kempe and others, published in 1962, which significantly influenced understandings of physical child abuse.19 The study identified ‘battered child syndrome’, which characterises a condition in children who have received serious physical abuse, ‘generally from a parent or foster parent’.20 It led to a heightened focus on familial physical child abuse, and influenced both professional and community understandings of physical child abuse.21

In Victoria, it appears that it was only from the mid-1970s that child sexual abuse was considered in child protection practices. In 1971, the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which was founded in 1896, was renamed to their Children’s Protection Society.22 The Society, then a non-government organisation, was responsible for receiving reports about child abuse and neglect.23 It started recording data related to child sexual abuse in 1975.24 Professor Bromfield provided evidence to the Board of Inquiry stating that this demonstrated that ‘public discourse was beginning to acknowledge child sexual abuse as an area of concern’.25

The Victorian Government took over the functions of the Society in 1985.26

Inadequate responses to child sexual abuse in the criminal justice system

Since Australia’s early colonial period, beginning in the late 1700s, the legal system has criminalised the sexual assault of children in some form.27 This criminalisation included laws that prohibited ‘forced sodomy’ of boys and ‘forcible rape’ of girls aged under 10,28 and the updating of colonial laws regarding the legal age of consent in the 1880s and 1890s to reflect amendments in England and the United States of America.29

Professor Lisa Featherstone, Head of School, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Queensland, provided evidence that although child sexual abuse was not widely discussed in the 1960s and 1970s, it was generally understood to be morally and criminally wrong.30 Similarly, the Board of Inquiry received evidence from Professor Michael Salter, Professor of Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, that society was not necessarily ignorant about child sexual abuse at the time; rather, society and institutions upheld systems and structures that prevented people from understanding and discussing child sexual abuse.31

Victoria’s criminal law relating to child sexual abuse was highly gendered until the 1980s.32 Professor Daryl Higgins, Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, provided evidence that up until 1981, the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) (Crimes Act) gendered sexual abuse in several ways,33 including by incorporating:

  • a crime of sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 10, with no corresponding crime relating to boys of the same age.34 The maximum penalty for this crime was 20 years imprisonment35
  • a crime of sexual abuse of a girl between the age of 10 and 16 (noting that the age of consent was 16), with no corresponding crime relating to boys of the same age.36 The maximum penalty for this crime was 10 years imprisonment.37

Professor Higgins also provided evidence that it was not until 1964 that the Crimes Act included ‘offences for sexual conduct between boys and male adults’.38

The Crimes Act also criminalised homosexuality, which was referred to at the time as ‘buggery’.39 The term ‘buggery’ was derived from the Buggery Act 1533 in England, which criminalised all forms of sexual intercourse between men.40 As a result of this derivation, anti-homosexual laws tended to stay silent regarding women.41 Under the Crimes Act, homosexuality carried a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment if the victim was under 14 years of age, or if the incident involved the use of violence and was non-consensual.42 Society’s prevailing homophobia in the 1960s and 1970s complicated the shame many boys felt after being sexually abused by male perpetrators.43 In Professor Salter’s statement, he described how ‘homophobia … was a bar to boys disclosing child sexual abuse’ as they may be ‘blamed’ and placed ‘under suspicion for homosexuality’.44

Successfully prosecuting a case of child sexual abuse was very difficult. The criminal justice system at the time largely perceived children as ‘unreliable witnesses’.45 Juries were asked to consider a child’s age and reliability throughout the court process.46 The common law required judges to advise the jury about the dangers of relying on a child’s evidence.47

The difficulties associated with prosecuting child sexual abuse cases were probably reflective of misconceptions about sexual abuse that remained prevalent in the broader community. For example, the Board of Inquiry heard expert evidence that it was commonly believed in the 1960s and 1970s that children had ‘imagined’ or ‘fantasised’ experiences of child sexual abuse.48 Social attitudes often saw children as highly impressionable and prone to incorrectly recalling information.49 Complaints about child sexual abuse were met by a mindset that framed children as ‘manipulative’.50 In the criminal justice system, prosecution of child sexual abuse offences in Australia sometimes cast children ‘in the role of tempter or temptress’.51 Adults were far more likely to be believed by the general public over a child, particularly if those adults were respected by the community.52

The criminal justice system gave greater weight to evidence from other witnesses that validated or corroborated a victim-survivor’s account.53 Yet, even in cases where several children made similar allegations, the criminal justice system restricted the inclusion of evidence that might suggest a pattern of behaviour from an alleged perpetrator, often referred to as ‘tendency’ and ‘coincidence’ evidence.54 This made it difficult for lawyers to rely on multiple charges or allegations to strengthen their case against an alleged offender.55

Professor Bromfield explained that ‘the cards were stacked against children every step of the way’.56 In her opinion, the criminal justice system at the time overwhelmingly advantaged perpetrators over victim-survivors,57 which may have influenced perpetrators to believe that ‘they could abuse children without fear of consequence’.58

It is likely that many allegations of child sexual abuse were never even reported to the police. Professor Featherstone explained that from the 1960s to the 1980s, ‘the most common response to a disclosure of child sexual abuse was to attempt to remove the child from immediate danger, but not report [the allegation] through the criminal justice system’.59 Professor Featherstone gave evidence that it was ‘very rare for institutions to involve the criminal justice system’.60

Lack of adequate regulation and oversight of teachers with respect to child sexual abuse

The evidence received by the Board of Inquiry made it clear that there was a lack of adequate regulation and oversight of teachers in Australian schools with respect to child sexual abuse, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. As Professor Featherstone explained in her witness statement:

There was a basic view that schools should be a safe place for children, however people did not actively think about the ways in which children in schools could be protected. There was little emphasis at all on child protection, especially beyond physical abuse.61

Professor Salter’s evidence to the Board of Inquiry was that Australian schools in the 1960s and 1970s were not ‘alive to the risk of child sexual abuse’.62 Professor Higgins’s evidence was that, in school settings during that time, there were no policies to ‘deal with allegations of child sexual abuse’ and there was ‘no prevention culture’.63 Professor Higgins noted that there was a ‘complete silencing of the possibility’ that child sexual abuse could be perpetrated within schools.64

In Victoria, child sexual abuse was largely absent from the education system’s policy settings and school curriculums during the 1960s and 1970s. However, there were some reviews highlighting (among other things) failings in the education system’s protection of children.65

In 1971, for example, a Victorian Board of Inquiry into Certain Aspects of the State Teaching Service considered matters relating to teacher qualifications and mechanisms to resolve complaints about teacher conduct.66 The 1971 Board of Inquiry made recommendations related to the responsibilities of the Department of Education’s Director-General in dealing with teacher misconduct, and considered the circumstances in which teachers would be provided with legal representation.67 However, the report did not make any references to the needs of children affected by teacher misconduct or the support that may be necessary for them. There was no discussion at all of the risk of child sexual abuse by teachers.

The lack of regulation and oversight in the 1960s and 1970s in respect of child sexual abuse by teachers in Victorian government schools is discussed in further detail in Chapter 10, The education system(opens in a new window).

The risk to children created by this regulatory failure was heightened by social attitudes towards schools and teachers. Schools were highly trusted institutions in the 1960s and 1970s. Further, families were generally deferential to principals and teachers. Teachers held ‘institutional authority’, and schools were often built around hierarchical structures that upheld that institutional authority.68

The power dynamics between teachers or other school staff and their students made children ‘particularly vulnerable’ to institutional child sexual abuse.69 Dr Wright provided evidence that as a result of these power imbalances, children were deferential to teachers who ‘could exert considerable power over children’.70

Legislation and government policies relating to children’s rights and safety from the 1980s

Children’s rights moving from passive protection to empowerment

Internationally, awareness of children’s rights continued to evolve throughout the 1980s.71 In late 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Convention).72 The Convention became the ‘first binding instrument in international law concerning the rights of children, and the most universally ratified human rights treaty in history’.73 It marked a global shift from seeing children as passive and in need of protection to a view of childhood in which children are ‘empowered and independent’.74

The Convention explicitly required governments to implement measures to protect children from sexual abuse.75 A shift in the concept of children’s rights was demonstrated in the underlying principle in the Convention that the ‘best interests of the child’ should be a ‘primary consideration’ in all actions concerning children.76 This principle was codified in Victoria in the Children and Young Persons Act 1989 (Vic).77

Australia ratified the Convention on 17 December 1990.78 The Board of Inquiry heard evidence that after Australia became a signatory, children’s rights were more widely accepted and discussed across Australian society.79

Embedding the Convention and its principles into Australian law has been a long and complex process that continues today.80 The Commonwealth Government is often criticised for how it has translated the Convention into domestic law, policy and practice.81 In 2018, the Australian Child Rights Taskforce’s report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child described Australia’s approach to protecting and promoting the rights of the child as established in the Convention as ‘fragmented, ad hoc and reactive’.82

Increased government intervention to respond to child sexual abuse

In 1969, South Australia became the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce mandatory reporting laws, and most other states and territories had introduced similar laws by the mid-1980s. These laws require certain persons to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to the authorities and were a significant step in the protection of children against abuse.

In the 1980s, Australian police saw an increase in reports of child sexual abuse. This was probably a result of heightened societal awareness arising from revelations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.83 Australian policing organisations started establishing the first child abuse investigation teams around this time; however, police responses to allegations of child sexual abuse in institutions made by children ‘did not universally improve’.84

In Victoria, child protection only became a government responsibility in 1985, when the Victorian Government took over the functions of the Children’s Protection Society.85

Further, Victoria did not introduce mandatory reporting laws until 1993.86 In 1993, mandatory reporters in Victoria included medical practitioners, nurses and police officers.87 Teachers were subsequently included as mandatory reporters from 1994.88

Growing understanding of the scale and impact of child sexual abuse

During the 1980s and 1990s, an increasing ‘wave of public inquiries’ across the world began examining experiences of institutional child sexual abuse.89 Professor Featherstone described these as impacting the ‘domestic view’, and referred to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) as a ‘turning point’, where ‘survivors were asked and heard’.90

There was a significant rise in public awareness of the systemic nature of institutional child sexual abuse that had remained hidden for decades, particularly in relation to child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.91

Professor Salter, in his statement to the Board of Inquiry, explained that public inquiries in the late twentieth century perceived child sexual abuse through an ‘individualised, psychological’ lens and overlooked the social determinants of sexual abuse.92 During the 1990s, for example, the courts and the media often continued to position victim-survivors as having experienced ‘false memories’ of child sexual abuse.93 More recent inquiries in the twenty-first century, such as the Royal Commission, were considered ground-breaking in reframing the systemic and structural drivers of institutional child sexual abuse.

Victim-survivor activism and targeted media exposure drove widespread recognition of the abuses many children experienced within institutions.94 Revelations of institutional abuse can result in a loss of public trust in institutions.95 However, the Board of Inquiry heard evidence that parents did not necessarily start questioning whether their children were unsafe at school.96 It was not until relatively recently that public inquiries increasingly examined experiences of child sexual abuse in educational settings. For example:

  • In 2013, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations detailed experiences of child abuse within non-government schools and early education centres.97
  • In 2013, the South Australian Independent Education Inquiry 2012–2013 examined the failure of the South Australian Department of Education to inform the Largs Bay Primary School community about an employee of an out-of-school care service, who was convicted of sexually abusing a child in his care in 2010.98
  • In 2017, the Royal Commission demonstrated how schools, among other institutions, had failed to protect children against child sexual abuse.99
  • In 2021, the Independent Inquiry into the Tasmanian Department of Education’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that from the 1970s to the 1990s, the Tasmanian Department of Education protected itself from the legal, financial and reputational risks it associated with complaints about child sexual abuse.100
  • In 2023, the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings heard that for some victim-survivors, the Tasmanian Department of Education’s response to disclosures of child sexual abuse worsened and prolonged the effects of the abuse they had experienced in government schools.101

These inquiries add to the groundswell of victim-survivor testimony detailing horrific experiences of child sexual abuse within Australian schools and systemic failures in responding to such abuse. They illustrate the stark reality that the experiences of victim-survivors of child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School and other government schools, which are the subject of this inquiry, are not isolated events.

Chapter 5 Endnotes

  1. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [15]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-40 [10].
  2. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, GA Res 1386 (XIV), UN Doc A/RES/14/1386 (20 November 1959); Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 15 .<https://aifs.gov.au/research/commissioned-reports/framework-historical-influences-institutional-child-sexual-abuse-1950-2014>(opens in a new window)
  3. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, GA Res 1386 (XIV), UN Doc A/RES/14/1386 (20 November 1959); Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 7.
  4. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [15].
  5. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [15].
  6. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [15].
  7. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [19]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-40 [16]–[21].
  8. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [19].
  9. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 6 [25].
  10. Shurlee Swain, History of Child Protection Legislation (Report, October 2014) 6.
  11. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 239.
  12. John F Fogarty, ‘Some Aspects of the Early History of Child Protection in Australia’ (2008) 78 Family Matters 52, 54.
  13. ‘The Stolen Generations’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 13 July 2023 (Web Page) <https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/stolen-generations>(opens in a new window); Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 15; Reconciliation Australia, ‘Let’s Talk …: The Apology’ (Web Document, 5 February 2018) 1 <https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Lets-Talk...Apology.pdf>(opens in a new window).
  14. Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister, ‘Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples’ (Speech, House of Representatives, Parliament House, 13 February 2008).
  15. Reconciliation Australia, ‘Let’s Talk …: The Apology’ (Web Document, 5 February 2018) 2–3 <https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Lets-Talk...Apology.pdf>(opens in a new window).
  16. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [19]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [37]–[38].
  17. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [19]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [30]–[32].
  18. Henry Kempe et al, ‘The Battered-Child Syndrome’ (1962) 181(1) Journal of the American Medical Association 17; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-38 [38]–[39].
  19. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-38 [33]–[38]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [22].
  20. Henry Kempe et al, ‘The Battered-Child Syndrome’ (1962) 181(1) Journal of the American Medical Association 17, 17; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-38 [34]–[36].
  21. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-38 [36]–[37]; Kim Oates and Anne Donnelly, ‘Influential Papers in Child Abuse’ (1997) 21(3) Child Abuse & Neglect 319, 319; Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 19.
  22. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 5 [24]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [33]–[34]; ‘Children’s Protection Society (1971–2018)’, Find and Connect (Web Page) [1] <https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/vic/E000115>(opens in a new window).
  23. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 5 [24]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [33]–[35], P-56 [19]–[22].
  24. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 5–6 [24]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-56 [24]–[30]; Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 245; Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 22.
  25. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 6 [24].
  26. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 6 [26].
  27. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [20]; Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 3–4.
  28. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 235; Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 4.(Report, 1 September 2014) 4.
  29. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 238.2, 238.
  30. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 3 [14].
  31. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 5 [19].
  32. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [30]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-60 [10]–[13].
  33. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 27 November 2023, 4 [23].
  34. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 46, later amended by the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 s 5; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-60 [15]–[19]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [30].
  35. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 46, later amended by the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic) s 5.
  36. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 48(1), later amended by the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic) s 5; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-60 [19]–[24]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [30].
  37. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 48(1), later amended by the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic) s 5.
  38. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 27 November 2023, 4 [22].
  39. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 68(1), later amended by the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic) s 5.
  40. Sydney Criminal Lawyers, ‘The Historical Offence of Homosexuality in Australia’, Lexology (online, 2 October 2020) <https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=632e5cbd-7b38-4695-b8b8-43c4e601a90d>.(opens in a new window)
  41. Sydney Criminal Lawyers, ‘The Historical Offence of Homosexuality in Australia’, Lexology (online, 2 October 2020) <https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=632e5cbd-7b38-4695-b8b8-43c4e601a90d>(opens in a new window).
  42. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 68(1), later amended by the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic) s 5; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [30(e)]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-60 [28]–[30].
  43. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-60 [34]–[39]; Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 4 [24].
  44. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 2 [8].
  45. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [32]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [8]– [10].
  46. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [10]–[11]; Australian Law Reform Commission, Uniform Evidence Law (Report No 109, 2010) [18.55].(Report No 109, 2010) [18.55].
  47. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 238–9; Australian Law Reform Commission, Uniform Evidence Law (Report No 109, 2010) [18.55].(Report No 109, 2010) [18.55].
  48. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [11]–[13]; Australian Law Reform Commission, Uniform Evidence Law (Report No 109, 2010) [18.55].(Report No 109, 2010) [18.55].
  49. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 238–9.
  50. Statement of Patrick O’Leary, 15 November 2023, 2 [11].
  51. Mark Finnane and Yorick Smaal, ‘Some Questions of History: Prosecuting and Punishing Child Sexual Assault’ in Mark Finnane and Yorick Smaal (eds), The Sexual Abuse of Children (Monash University Publishing, 2016) 5.
  52. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 3 [16].
  53. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [11]–[14]; Lisa Featherstone and Amanda Kaladelfos, Sex Crimes in the Fifties (Melbourne University Publishing, July 2016) 98.
  54. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [32]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [16]–[18].
  55. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [16]–[18]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 7 [32].
  56. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [27]–[28].
  57. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [30]–[31].
  58. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-61 [32]–[33].
  59. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 5 [26].
  60. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 6 [33].
  61. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 7 [35].
  62. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 7 [23].
  63. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 3 [18], 10 [50].
  64. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 3 [19].
  65. Statement of Katie Wright, ‘Attachment KW-5’, 23 October 2023; Victoria Education Commission, First Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Enquire into and Report upon the Administration, Organisation and General Condition of the Existing System of Public Instruction; Together with a Portion of the Minutes of Evidence (1882); Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 5 [22].
  66. Board of Inquiry into Certain Aspects of the State Teaching Service (Report, 7 September 1971) 5.
  67. Board of Inquiry into Certain Aspects of the State Teaching Service (Report, 7 September 1971) 37.
  68. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 9 [41].
  69. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 6 [34].
  70. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 9 [41].
  71. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 7 [28]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-41 [15]–[19].
  72. Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force 2 September 1990); Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-40 [23]–[27].
  73. June Simon, Ann Luetzow and Jon Conte, ‘Thirty Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Developments in Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation’ (2020) 110 (Part 1) Child Abuse & Neglect 1, 1.
  74. Megan Mitchell, ‘Children’s Rights in Australia: Looking Back and Moving Forward’, Australian Human Rights Commission (Speech, 21 June 2019) <https://humanrights.gov.au/about/news/speeches/childrens-rights-australia-looking-back-and-moving-forward>(opens in a new window).
  75. Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force 2 September 1990) arts 3, 19, 34.
  76. Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force 2 September 1990) art 3.
  77. See e.g.: the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and the Children and Young Persons Act 1989 (Vic), various sections.
  78. Philip Alston and Glen Brennan (eds), The UN Children’s Convention and Australia (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, ANU Centre for International and Public Law and Australian Council of Social Services, 1991) iii; Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 26.
  79. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [19]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-40 [23]–[27].
  80. See commentary on Australia’s application of the Convention of the Rights of the Child into domestic legislation in United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Australia, Forty-seventh session, 21 June – 9 July 2021, Agenda item 6, A/HRC/47/8., Forty-seventh session, 21 June – 9 July 2021, Agenda item 6, A/HRC/47/8.
  81. Philip Alston and Glen Brennan (eds), The UN Children’s Convention and Australia (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, ANU Centre for International and Public Law and Australian Council of Social Services, 1991) iii–iv.
  82. Australian Child Rights Taskforce, The Children’s Report: Australia’s NGO Coalition Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (2018) 9.
  83. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 75. , 75.
  84. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 2, 249., 249.
  85. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 6 [26].
  86. Ben Mathews, Mandatory Reporting Laws for Child Sexual Abuse in Australia: A Legislative History (Report, August 2014) 10.
  87. Ben Mathews, Mandatory Reporting Laws for Child Sexual Abuse in Australia: A Legislative History (Report, August 2014) 10; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-57 [20]–[25]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 6 [23]–[26]; Child Protection Victoria, Health and Community Services, ‘Reporting Child Abuse’ (Fact Sheet, November 1993).
  88. Ben Mathews, Mandatory Reporting Laws for Child Sexual Abuse in Australia: A Legislative History (Report, August 2014) 10.
  89. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-67 [22]–[26]; Katie Wright, ‘Remaking Collective Knowledge: An Analysis of the Complex and Multiple Effects of Inquiries into Historical Institutional Child Abuse’ (2017) 27 Child Abuse & Neglect 10, 11.
  90. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 4 [22].
  91. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-67 [29]–[35]; Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 26.
  92. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 3 [10].
  93. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 3 [10].
  94. Katie Wright, ‘Remaking Collective Knowledge: An Analysis of the Complex and Multiple Effects of Inquiries into Historical Institutional Child Abuse’ (2017) 27 Child Abuse & Neglect 10, 10.
  95. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 14 [72].
  96. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-67 [28]–[29].
  97. Family and Community Development Committee, Parliament of Victoria, Betrayal of Trust: Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations (Final Report, November 2013) vol 1, 56 [3.3.2], 148 [6.5.3].(Final Report, November 2013) vol 1, 56 [3.3.2], 148 [6.5.3].
  98. Independent Education Inquiry 2012–2013 (Final Report, June 2013) 1 [1], 13 [48]. (Final Report, June 2013) 1 [1], 13 [48].
  99. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) Preface and Executive Summary, 5.
  100. Stephen Smallbone and Tim McCormack, Independent Inquiry into the Tasmanian Department of Education’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, 7 June 2021) 74.
  101. Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings (Final Report, September 2023) vol 3, vol 326.

Chapter 6

Time and place

Introduction

To understand the experiences of victim-survivors who shared their stories with the Board of Inquiry, it is important to appreciate the multiple and intersecting factors that affected their lives when they were children. Children are shaped by their immediate relationships with family, friends and teachers.1 They are also influenced by the interactions between people in their networks, such as their family’s relationships with teachers and others.2 In addition, indirect factors, such as the school curriculum or the media, can shape children’s lives.3 Finally, broader factors related to ‘fundamental beliefs, values, cultures and ideologies’ also affect children and their upbringing.4

This Chapter aims to provide some context for the experiences of victim-survivors by describing the relevant social, cultural and political forces that may have influenced their lives at the time of the child sexual abuse. It builds on the discussion of the legislative and governmental policy framework that was evolving between the 1960s and 1980s, described earlier in this Part.

The 1960s and 1970s are often remembered as heralding major social and political changes, demonstrated by movements around the world that pushed for greater equality, respect for diversity, peace, and protection of the environment. While this period was undoubtedly a time of significant societal change, it is important to recognise that liberation and equality movements had their own limitations and were contested and resisted, with progress often hard fought and non-linear. Furthermore, social changes during this period occurred against a backdrop of largely conservative values, which still dominated many of the social norms and attitudes held by the community at the time.

In addition to discussing how global trends influenced life in Australia, this Chapter considers the community of Beaumaris specifically. Most victim-survivors who shared their experiences with the Board of Inquiry attended Beaumaris Primary School. While the Beaumaris community was influenced by broader global trends, it is also clear that it maintained its own identity. Understanding the unique characteristics of the Beaumaris community assists in understanding the experiences of victim-survivors, in various ways.

While this Chapter endeavours to explain the norms, values and practices that shaped Australian society from the 1960s to the 1990s, the Board of Inquiry recognises that it does not reflect the full diversity of people’s experiences,5 which are inevitably more complex and nuanced than a description of societal trends can accommodate.

The 1960s and 1970s have been described by historians as a time when the world became more youthful, inclusive and just, as a range of predominantly youth-led movements pushed boundaries and agitated against the status quo.6

During this time, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America fought for racial justice by espousing the dismantling of racial segregation and an end to racial discrimination.7 Second-wave feminists pushed for equal pay, the ending of gender-based discrimination and the improvement of educational outcomes for women.8 LGBTIQA+ activists campaigned to end discrimination and stigma directed at the queer community.9 Disability activists fought for recognition of rights and inclusion for people with disability.10 Environmentalist movements also grew as society started paying closer attention to the threats of pollution.11 Earth Day, founded in 1970, involved 20 million Americans engaging in demonstrations and gatherings to raise awareness about environmentally sustainable practices and the conservation of natural resources.12

In addition, electronic forms of communication emerged. These new forms of communication contributed to the first collective, global consciousness.13 Televisions could rapidly broadcast culture and knowledge far and wide.14 During the Cold War period, the horrors of the Vietnam War were broadcast, triggering a domino effect of anti-war protests across the world.15

However, historians also caution against glorifying this period.16 Inflation, unemployment and recession created a challenging economic climate.17 The waves of protests and reforms were often met with a rise in conservative ways of thinking.18 In reality, much of what is now viewed as inevitable progress was contested and resisted, with governments and sections of the community fighting to uphold traditional power structures that privileged some people over others based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, age and ability.19

Life in Australia: tradition meets resistance

Australia entered the 1960s under the leadership of conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies. Menzies became Australia’s longest-serving prime minister over the course of two terms in office — from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1966.20 He was ‘often characterised as an extreme monarchist’, and personally described himself as ‘British to the bootstraps’.21 Commentators have suggested that the early 1960s in Australia were marked by a pervasive sense of nationalism on the part of Anglo-Australians that was mostly rooted in the notion of British race patriotism.22

The Menzies Government introduced selective conscription for overseas military service in 1964, during the Vietnam War.23 While this was initially met with support, over time more people — largely led by university students — began opposing Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War and the conscription of Australian soldiers.24

Feminists, trade unionists, First Nations rights activists, sexual libertarians and gay liberationists led other social movements in 1960s Australia.25 Young Australians campaigned for equal pay and workplace rights, free education and First Nations land rights.26 In 1967, Australia held a referendum that led to constitutional reforms. These reforms saw First Nations peoples finally counted as part of Australia’s population.27

Despite the increasing calls for various other reforms across Australian society, people who valued established ways of life in Australia and internationally worked hard to preserve traditional social structures.28 In Victoria, Liberal Premier Sir Henry Bolte led the government across the 1960s and early 1970s.29 Bolte’s election in 1955 had introduced a conservative, coalition government in Victoria that governed for almost three decades.30 During this period, many immigrants from across Europe and other parts of the world increasingly settled in Melbourne, strongly influencing the city’s culture. The population of teenagers and young adults in Melbourne also grew rapidly as a result of the post-war baby boom.31

During the 1970s, protestors sought to decriminalise abortion and homosexuality.32 Feminist and LGBTIQA+ activists also started creating services that responded to their distinct needs, such as women’s refuges, rape crisis centres and telephone counselling services.33 In Melbourne, the first Centre Against Sexual Assault was established in 1979 at the Queen Victoria Medical Centre.34 First Nations rights activists pushed back against the policy of assimilation and fought tirelessly for land rights, setting up the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 outside of the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra in protest against government policies towards First Nations peoples.35

In 1972, Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s election brought significant social and political changes to Australia.36 Whitlam called for greater independence for Australia, introducing a new form of nationalism that prioritised Australia’s local and national identity over its colonial ties to Britain.37

Although many young people in Melbourne were not necessarily protesting for reforms, their everyday habits did start to change.38 It became more acceptable for young people to have multiple romantic relationships before settling into a long-term relationship.39 Young people also sought out new forms of fun — staying out late at pubs and dancing in nightclubs across the city.40

By the early 1970s, many of the social and cultural changes that emerged in the 1960s had become increasingly mainstream across Melbourne.41

Life in Beaumaris during the 1960s and 1970s

Beaumaris is a quiet suburban area situated within a bushy landscape on Melbourne’s coastline in, what is now referred to as, the City of Bayside.42 Its natural environment is characterised by ‘the beaches, the picturesque rocky cliffs, [and] the wild freedom of the tea-trees interspersed with manna gums’.43 As the suburb was not yet accessible by train in the 1960s and 1970s, it was relatively isolated from Melbourne’s central business district and from neighbouring suburbs.

After the Second World War, Victoria’s population in Beaumaris and its surrounding areas experienced a ‘dramatic increase’.44 A 1958 article in The Age newspaper described Beaumaris as a ‘“Cinderella” area’ and ‘one of Melbourne’s most popular and attractive suburbs’.45 A 1967 article in the same newspaper’s real estate section described how Beaumaris had become a ‘status area’ and a ‘glamor suburb in the affluent era of the ’fifties and ’sixties’.46 In a book on Beaumaris’s modernist homes, Professor Phillip Goad, Chair of Architecture at the University of Melbourne, described his childhood in Beaumaris as ‘an ideal post-war upbringing’, and highlighted the variety of ways in which children could spend their time in the area’s natural environment.47

Partly influenced by this, the population in Beaumaris expanded and changed as ‘young couples looking for a more progressive lifestyle’ were attracted to the area’s natural environment and relative isolation.48 As one victim-survivor explained, this was the ‘baby boomer era’, and in Beaumaris and its surrounding areas there were lots of children around who lived a ‘free’ life.49 As young couples settled in the area and started families in the period following the Second World War, enrolments at Beaumaris Primary School rose sharply.50 The historical record of the school kept by the Department of Education (Department) states that ‘[b]y the 1950s, the school was bursting at the seams’.51 In the 1960s and 1970s, the vast majority of residents in the local government area identified as Christian, were born in Australia, the United Kingdom or Ireland, and were described by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at the time as of ‘British nationality’.52

Many participants in the Board of Inquiry said that they enjoyed growing up in Beaumaris in the 1960s and 1970s. Victim-survivors described the area during this period as a ‘beautiful cul-de-sac’,53 and said that Beaumaris was ‘gorgeous’ and ‘idyllic’.54 One resident told the Board of Inquiry that Beaumaris was a relaxed community where everybody knew each other and looked out for each other.55 They recalled Beaumaris as being like a ‘happy, country, hippy town’.56 Some people fondly recalled that, as children, they happily spent time together after school and on weekends.57 They remembered how children rode their bikes around and played in the street until the sun set.58

Schools in Beaumaris and its surrounding areas were described as ‘sporty’, and many children in the area built their lives around sport.59 They participated in a range of sports, including football, athletics, tennis, netball and cricket, and recalled that their teams experienced great success in local competitions.60 Children were involved in sports both through their schools, and in connection with other clubs and organisations, such as the St Kilda Little League.61

Reflections on the Beaumaris area in this period paint a vivid picture of a life enjoyed outdoors, with strong bonds forged through the school and local sporting clubs. For a number of victim-survivors who shared their stories with the Board of Inquiry, this was the backdrop against which their experience of child sexual abuse occurred. The grief associated with their experiences remains strongly felt by many current and former residents. Some of these experiences are described in Chapter 7, Experiences of sexual abuse and its impact in childhood(opens in a new window).

Social norms affecting children’s rights and safety

Communities are not only defined by the laws that govern them — they are also shaped by common social norms, values and practices that emerge from day-to-day life. The Board of Inquiry has considered how these influences affected understanding and awareness of child sexual abuse in Australia, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. This particularly relates to how historical child sexual abuse was:

  • influenced by dominant family structures, gender roles and attitudes towards sexuality
  • considered in the context of attitudes and expectations around children and how they should be disciplined
  • viewed and understood, namely through the lenses of cultural taboos and secrecy.62

As explained by Professor Leah Bromfield, Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection and Chair of Child Protection, University of South Australia, social and cultural factors in the 1960s and 1970s underpinned child sexual abuse being ‘invisible’, children not being heard or believed, and perpetrators being able to ‘act with impunity’.63 Appreciating these broader norms, values and practices assists in understanding the experiences of victim-survivors and the perpetuation of child sexual abuse at that time.

Gender norms and traditional ‘family values’

Despite the progressive movements that emerged globally in the 1960s and 1970s, traditional norms and values persisted in Australia during this period — particularly when it came to family life.

Australian society, heavily influenced by Christianity, idealised the nuclear family.64 Gender roles were traditionally defined, with men typically regarded as the ‘breadwinners’ and women as the ‘homemakers’.65 Men held a higher status in society than women and children, and were viewed as the ‘head of the household’.66

In this context, children’s social standing was at the bottom of the hierarchy — behind women. A child’s role was to be obedient and their needs were secondary to those of the family.67 This created a power imbalance, which contributed to children being fearful of speaking up about sexual abuse.68 If a child did disclose sexual abuse, they were often not believed.69

This power imbalance also reinforced children’s deference to adults. Professor Daryl Higgins, Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that such an imbalance related to a patriarchal family structure, where:

  • children were ‘to be seen but not heard’
  • fathers were the ‘head of the household’
  • a child’s role was to be an obedient agent for the adults surrounding them
  • children’s needs were secondary to the broader functioning of the family.70

In the 1960s, social and cultural movements started questioning traditional notions of family, sexuality and gender roles.71 The traditional ‘home and family values’ of the 1950s began to be challenged, and this continued into the 1970s.72 The feminist and sexual liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s also sought to challenge traditional societal distinctions between public and private spheres of life. Feminists called for a fundamental refiguration of social relations between both women and men, and adults and children.73 Second-wave feminists demanded that their calls for autonomy and liberation be extended to children.74 Feminist groups pushed governments to take action on matters related to sexual violence, which had flow-on effects for how society responded to child sexual abuse.75

It was in the 1970s that child sexual abuse became more widely acknowledged in mainstream public discussions.76 Society started to view sexual abuse as a public health problem that could cause trauma and harm to children.77 Understandings of sexual abuse in this period often focused on women’s ‘experiences of violence as children, as well as the experiences of children at the time’.78 Feminists and child protection advocates tried to understand the sexual abuse of girls and to establish why it was absent from public discourse.79 As part of this process, the movement identified the sexual abuse of (most often female) children as a way in which men exerted social control in the private sphere.80 Consequently, while unintended, limited attention was given to the sexual abuse of boys.81

Society was also very homophobic in the 1960s and 1970s,82 and homosexuality was highly stigmatised.83 It was not until the mid-1970s that Australian states and territories started decriminalising private homosexual acts between two consenting males.84 In Victoria, homosexual acts between males of all ages — regardless of whether such acts were consensual — remained an offence until the early 1980s.85 Prior to this point, in the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), the offence was known as ‘buggery’.86 Given the cultural silences surrounding child sexual abuse coupled with the homophobic attitudes of the time, Australian society was hesitant to address the implications of child sexual abuse perpetrated on boys.87

Professor Higgins, in his expert witness statement as part of the Board of Inquiry’s work, explained that the shame and stigma surrounding homosexuality made it particularly challenging for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse to speak up or be believed if they were sexually abused by a person of the same gender.88 Professor Bromfield gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that because of attitudes towards homosexuality, boys may have understood that ‘what had been done to them was considered to be abhorrent’, which significantly affected the sense of identity, shame and silencing that many male victim-survivors have and continue to experience.89

Societal stigmas towards homosexuality and child sexual abuse meant that some men had a ‘reasonable fear’ that if they were sexually abused by a male they would be viewed as homosexual or as ‘less of a man for letting that happen to them’.90 Many boys feared ‘the perception that they would be tainted by what had been done to them’ if they disclosed their experiences of sexual abuse.91 A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that being viewed as ‘gay’ by your peers, or admitting to any form of male-to-male sexual activity, would have been ‘absolute ruination’ for a boy at the time.92 Another victim-survivor, who identifies as LGBTIQA+, recalled being called ‘gay boy’ by their peers at school.93

It was not until subsequent decades in the twentieth century that the values, ideas and counterculture of second-wave feminism had a greater social and cultural influence.94 In the 1960s and 1970s, Australians principally adhered to traditional ‘family values’. Professor Bromfield explained:

Now when we look back on the ’70s, we tend to look back on that as though that [counterculture] was a big feature, but throughout the 1970s, the dominant feature of society was still that ideal around traditional family life and gender roles.95

Reticence to discuss sex, sexuality and sexual abuse

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, families did not usually have open conversations about sex, let alone conversations related to sexual violence.96 Professor Bromfield gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that child sexual abuse was not ‘something that was talked about at all in Australian families’.97

We’ve been reticent to talk about sex in this country. We’ve been … reticent to talk about child sexual abuse. That has impacted the safety of our children.98

Professor Higgins noted that it was widely felt in the community in the 1960s and 1970s that sex and sexuality should not be openly discussed.99 Adults were hesitant to talk about sex and sexuality, and used vague terms such as ‘immorality’ and ‘interference’ to talk about sexual abuse.100 Dr Katie Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University, suggested that it was likely that children would have picked up on adults’ hesitancy to discuss sex and recognised that there was a ‘taboo around sexuality in general’.101

Adults rarely taught children about concepts of consent, bodily autonomy and safety.102 One victim-survivor explained that ‘[i]n those days you never spoke to your parents about these things’.103 Another victim-survivor commented that his parents were ‘pretty hopeless’ at discussing sex at home.104

Normalisation of violence against children

In the 1960s and 1970s in Australia, physical disciplining of children was commonly accepted as ‘normal’.105 Social attitudes that positioned children as in need of direction and control often underpinned the use of corporal punishment.106 It was generally understood in society that leaders of institutions had absolute authority, which children were expected to respect.107 Teachers often used corporal punishment to discipline and control children in schools.108

Teachers were allowed to physically discipline children in ways that would now be recognised as physical abuse.109 This is important, as recent evidence suggests that harsh treatment of children that may amount to physical and psychological abuse can increase the risks of sexual abuse, and often co-occur.110 Professor Bromfield gave evidence that the use of physical discipline was an example of ‘the absolute authority of adults over children’, noting that some children accepted it as ‘normal’ and did not complain to their parents about teachers’ use of corporal punishment because ‘they expected it’.111

Some victim-survivors explained how teachers used corporal punishment to discipline students in government schools during this period. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that teachers regularly caned students across their wrists and hands.112 Teachers expected children to do as they were told, and if students were ‘out of line’, they would get ‘belted’, caned, strapped or given detention.113

The Board of Inquiry was told that some teachers were physically violent towards students at Beaumaris Primary School. In particular, the Board of Inquiry was told that Wyatt would often shove and kick students.114 A victim-survivor from another government school within the scope of the inquiry described being regularly strapped by their teachers.115

Limited awareness of child safety risks posed by institutions and people in authority

Professor Patrick O’Leary, Co-Lead, Disrupting Violence Beacon and Director of the Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith University, gave evidence that the position of adults within children’s lives was ‘much less questioned’ by Australian society in the 1960s and 1970s than it is today.116 People placed a great deal of trust in both institutions and individuals in positions of authority,117 and children were expected to ‘respect their elders’.118

Evidence before the Board of Inquiry demonstrates that in the 1960s and 1970s in Australia, there was a lack of awareness of the risk of children being sexually abused.119 For example, there was limited public discussion of child sexual abuse and limited understandings of what is now known as grooming (refer to Chapter 12, Grooming and disclosure(opens in a new window)).120

In particular, schools were not viewed as places where students faced a risk of child sexual abuse.121 As explored in Chapter 5, Children’s rights and safety in context(opens in a new window), schools were ‘not alive’ to the risk of child sexual abuse and there were no policies in place to manage allegations.122

One victim-survivor explained that their family did not know much about child protection or safety.123 Another individual told the Board of Inquiry that there weren’t ‘sufficient guardrails to ensure [children’s] safety and the prevention of exploitation and abuse’.124 People generally did not raise any objection when adults spent time alone with children, and ‘no one questioned or considered any risk of a teacher being alone with a child one-on-one’.125 If a teacher asked a student to stay behind after school hours, no one queried the authority of the institution or the teacher’s right to make that request.126

At a structural level, government policy settings applicable to schools rarely commented on child safety. Dr David Howes PSM, Deputy Secretary, Schools and Regional Services, Department of Education, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that even in the mid-1980s the Department had no policies or procedures in place to prevent an authority figure in a school, such as a principal, from spending unsupervised time alone with children.127 Analysis of the Department’s child safety policies and procedures, and the effectiveness of its response to historical child sexual abuse, is in Part C(opens in a new window).

Victim-blaming attitudes

Expert evidence given to the Board of Inquiry demonstrated that when child sexual abuse was discussed, social attitudes often vilified victims. Broader cultural beliefs positioned children as having been complicit in their own sexual abuse.128 They were frequently blamed for having made up stories that unfairly targeted the perpetrator.129

Cultural attitudes often characterised victim-survivors as ‘seductive’.130 By focusing on the behaviours of children, society deflected responsibility for the sexual abuse away from the perpetrator and denied the harm that children had experienced from the sexual abuse.131 Professor Lisa Featherstone, Head of School, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Queensland, provided evidence to the Board of Inquiry that at the time, some health professionals, such as doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, described children as having encouraged the abuse in some way.132

It was not until the 1990s that the idea of children being complicit in their experiences of child sexual abuse slowly started unravelling.133

Some key moments in the 1980s and 1990s

Under the Terms of Reference, the Board of Inquiry was directed to inquire into historical child sexual abuse that took place between 1960 and 1999. While most of the individuals who engaged with the Board of Inquiry shared experiences of child sexual abuse in the 1960s and 1970s, the inquiry did receive information related to the 1980s and 1990s. This section provides a brief overview of several key moments in society during this time.

The 1980s have been described by some academics as a transformative decade.134 Technology altered everyday life, the AIDS epidemic affected communities, and new social movements sought to address concerns about the environment and the threat of nuclear war.135 The return to a conservative government in the United States of America was considered by some historians as a backlash to the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s.136

In Australia, from 1983 to 1991, Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party. In 1991, Paul Keating, former Treasurer in the Hawke Government, won a leadership challenge and became Prime Minister. This was the first time a leadership challenge within a party resulted in a change in prime minister. From 1996 to 2007, the Coalition Government was in power, with John Howard as the Prime Minister.

In 1984, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) was introduced in Australia — making it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy; to eliminate sexual harassment; and to promote ‘the equality of men and women’.137

In 1987, Prime Minister Hawke committed that ‘by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty’.138 This statement was a clear signal that child poverty was not acceptable and that government considered it a priority to end child poverty.

In 1989, the Cold War ended with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.139 In the post-Cold War period during the 1990s, capitalism spread and globalisation accelerated — better connecting people across the globe and deconstructing formerly rigid national boundaries.140

In 1992, in the case of Mabo v Queensland [No 2], the High Court of Australia upheld the claim that lands of this continent were not ‘terra nullius’ (that is, land belonging to no-one) when European colonisation occurred.141 In 1993, the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) was passed.142 It sought to achieve recognition and protection of native title for First Nations peoples and to establish mechanisms to determine future claims of native title.143

As described in Chapter 5(opens in a new window), this period also saw a change in the way society understood children’s rights and safety. The Victorian Government took over responsibility for the Children’s Protection Society, Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and homosexual acts were decriminalised in Victoria.144 These factors began to slowly reshape the attitudes and norms that affected how child sexual abuse was understood during the 1980s and 1990s.

Chapter 6 Endnotes

  1. This is based on Bronfenbrenner’s ‘ecological systems theory’ that recognises that children develop within a broad culture, with multiple and interacting variables: Emily Martinello, ‘Applying the Ecological Systems Theory to Better Understand and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse’ (2020) 24(1) Sexuality & Culture 326, 327–8.
  2. Emily Martinello, ‘Applying the Ecological Systems Theory to Better Understand and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse’ (2020) 24(1) Sexuality & Culture 326, 327–8.
  3. Emily Martinello, ‘Applying the Ecological Systems Theory to Better Understand and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse’ (2020) 24(1) Sexuality & Culture 326, 327–8.
  4. Emily Martinello, ‘Applying the Ecological Systems Theory to Better Understand and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse’ (2020) 24(1) Sexuality & Culture 326, 327–8.
  5. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-37 [44]–[45]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [14].
  6. Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney, ‘Introduction’ in Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney (eds), The Global 1960s: Convention, Contest and Counterculture (Routledge, 2018) 1, 1.
  7. Christopher W Schmidt, Civil Rights in America: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2021) 135; Duco Hellema, The Global 1970s: Radicalism, Reform and Crisis (Routledge, 2019) 21.
  8. Duco Hellema, The Global 1970s: Radicalism, Reform and Crisis (Routledge, 2019) 23.
  9. Duco Hellema, The Global 1970s: Radicalism, Reform and Crisis (Routledge, 2019) 24.
  10. Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, Agents of Our Own Destiny: Activism and the Road to the Disability Royal Commission (Research Report, November 2021) 4.
  11. June Edmunds and Bryan S Turner, ‘Global Generations: Social Change in the Twentieth Century’ (2005) 56(4) British Journal of Sociology 559, 567.
  12. Ilze Aizsilniece et al, ‘WMA Members Share Reflections about Earth Day 2023’ (2023) 69(1) World Medical Journal 32, 32; Thomas T Lewis, Salem Press Encyclopedia, vol 2, Earth Day [1].
  13. June Edmunds and Bryan S Turner, ‘Global Generations: Social Change in the Twentieth Century’ (2005) 56(4) British Journal of Sociology 559, 559, 564–5.
  14. June Edmunds and Bryan S Turner, ‘Global Generations: Social Change in the Twentieth Century’ (2005) 56(4) British Journal of Sociology 559, 566.
  15. June Edmunds and Bryan S Turner, ‘Global Generations: Social Change in the Twentieth Century’ (2005) 56(4) British Journal of Sociology 559, 565.
  16. Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney, ‘Introduction’ in Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney (eds), The Global 1960s: Convention, Contest and Counterculture (Routledge, 2018) 1, 3–4.
  17. June Edmunds and S Bryan Turner, ‘Global Generations: Social Change in the Twentieth Century’ (2005) 56(4) British Journal of Sociology 559, 567.
  18. Duco Hellema, The Global 1970s: Radicalism, Reform and Crisis (Routledge, 2019) x.
  19. Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney, ‘Introduction’ in Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney (eds), The Global 1960s: Convention, Contest and Counterculture (Routledge, 2018) 1, 3–4; Lynn Weber, ‘A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality’ (1889) 22(1) Psychology of Women Quarterly 13, 13.
  20. ‘Robert Menzies’, National Archives of Australia (Web Page) <https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/australias-prime-ministers/robert-menzies>(opens in a new window).
  21. ‘Robert Menzies’, National Archives of Australia (Web Page) <https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/australias-prime-ministers/robert-menzies>(opens in a new window); Jon Piccini, ‘Australia, the Long 1960s, and the Winds of Change in the Asia-Pacific’ in Chen Jian et al (eds), The Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties: Between Protest and Nation-Building (Routledge, 2018) 119, 120.
  22. Anne Pender, ‘The Mythical Australian: Barry Humphries, Gough Whitlam and “New Nationalism”’ (2004) 51(1) Australian Journal of Politics and History 67, 69; Stuart Ward, ‘Sentiment and Self-Interest: The Imperial Ideal in Anglo-Australian Commercial Culture’ (2001) 32(116) Australian Historical Studies 91, 91–92.
  23. Jon Piccini, ‘Australia, the Long 1960s, and the Winds of Change in the Asia-Pacific’ in Chen Jian et al (eds), The Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties: Between Protest and Nation-Building (Routledge, 2018) 119, 120.
  24. ‘Victoria through the Decades’, State Library of Victoria (Web Page) <https://www.slv.vic.gov.au/stories/victoria-through-decades>(opens in a new window).
  25. Isobelle Barrett Meyering, Feminism and the Making of a Child Rights Revolution: 1969–1979 (Melbourne University Publishing, 2022) 13.
  26. ‘Victoria through the Decades’, State Library of Victoria (Web Page) <https://www.slv.vic.gov.au/stories/victoria-through-decades>(opens in a new window).
  27. ‘The 1967 Referendum’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Web Page, 4 November 2021) <https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/1967-referendum>(opens in a new window).
  28. Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney, ‘Introduction’ in Tamara Chaplin and Jadwiga E Pieper Mooney (eds), The Global 1960s: Convention, Contest and Counterculture (Routledge, 2018) 1, 4.
  29. ‘1955 – Present: Stability’, Victorian Electoral Commission (Web Page) <https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/voting/learn-to-vote/history-of-elections-in-victoria/stability>(opens in a new window).
  30. ‘1955 – Present: Stability’, Victorian Electoral Commission (Web Page) <https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/voting/learn-to-vote/history-of-elections-in-victoria/stability>(opens in a new window).
  31. Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘New People, New Ideas and New Attitudes: Melbourne’s Long Sixties’ (2019) Victorian Historical Journal 19, 23.
  32. Michelle Arrow and Angela Woollacott, ‘Revolutionising the Everyday: The Transformative Impact of the Sexual and Feminist Movements on Australian Society and Culture’ in Michelle Arrow and Angela Woollacott (eds), Everyday Revolutions: Remaking Gender, Sexuality and Culture in 1970s Australia (ANU Press, 2019) 1, 5.
  33. Michelle Arrow and Angela Woollacott, ‘Revolutionising the Everyday: The Transformative Impact of the Sexual and Feminist Movements on Australian Society and Culture’ in Michelle Arrow and Angela Woollacott (eds), Everyday Revolutions: Remaking Gender, Sexuality and Culture in 1970s Australia (ANU Press, 2019) 1, 3.
  34. ‘About Us — Our History’, Centre Against Sexual Assault, Central Victoria (Web Page) <https://casacv.org.au/about-us>(opens in a new window).
  35. Kathy Lothian, ‘Moving Blackwards: Black Power and the Aboriginal Embassy’ in Ingereth Macfarlane and Mark Hannah (eds), Transgressions: Critical Australian Indigenous Histories (ANU E Press and Aboriginal History, 2007) 19, 19; ‘A Short History of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy’, Reconciliation Australia (Web Page, 30 May 2022) <https://www.reconciliation.org.au/a-short-history-of-the-aboriginal-tent-embassy>.(opens in a new window)
  36. Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘New People, New Ideas and New Attitudes: Melbourne’s Long Sixties’ (2019) 90(1) Victorian Historical Journal 19, 27.
  37. Jack Doig, ‘New Nationalism in Australia and New Zealand: The Construction of National Identities by Two Labo(u)r Governments in the Early 1970s’ (2013) 59(4) Australian Journal of Politics and History 559, 559.
  38. Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘New People, New Ideas and New Attitudes: Melbourne’s Long Sixties’ (2019) 90(1) Victorian Historical Journal 19, 24.
  39. Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘New People, New Ideas and New Attitudes: Melbourne’s Long Sixties’ (2019) 90(1) Victorian Historical Journal 19, 24.
  40. Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘New People, New Ideas and New Attitudes: Melbourne’s Long Sixties’ (2019) 90(1) Victorian Historical Journal 19, 25.
  41. Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘New People, New Ideas and New Attitudes: Melbourne’s Long Sixties’ (2019) 90(1) Victorian Historical Journal 19, 26.
  42. Philip Goad, ‘Foreword’ in Fiona Austin and Simon Reeves, Beaumaris Modern 2: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris (Melbourne Books, 2022) 8.
  43. Philip Goad, ‘Foreword’ in Fiona Austin and Simon Reeves, Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris (Melbourne Books, 2018) 8.
  44. ‘A Taste of History’, Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, 14 July 1995) 29, citing Graeme Disney and Valerie Tarrant, Bayside Reflections: History and Heritage of Sandringham, Hampton, Black Rock and Beaumaris (City of Sandringham, 1988).
  45. ‘Storm in the Tea-Tree’, The Age (Melbourne, 19 May 1958) 8.
  46. Ray Davie, ‘Gipsy Village to Status Area’, The Age (Melbourne, 13 May 1967) 41.
  47. Phillip Goad, ‘Foreword’ in Fiona Austin and Simon Reeves, Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris (Melbourne Books, 2018) 8–9.
  48. Phillip Goad, ‘Foreword’ in Fiona Austin and Simon Reeves, Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris (Melbourne Books, 2018) 8.
  49. Private session 17.
  50. ‘Detailed History of the School 1915–1982’, Beaumaris Primary School (Web Page) <https://www.beaups.vic.edu.au/page/125/History>.(opens in a new window)
  51. ‘Detailed History of the School 1915–1982’, Beaumaris Primary School (Web Page) <https://www.beaups.vic.edu.au/page/125/History>.(opens in a new window)
  52. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing, 30 June 1966 (Catalogue No 2106.0, December 1969) vol 4 pt 2, 70–1, 124–25, 204–5; Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 30 June 1971 (Catalogue No 2105.0, May 1973) bulletin 7 pt 2, 139. Note that Australian citizens were British subjects until 1984: National Archives of Australia, Citizenship in Australia (Fact Sheet No 187) 1.
  53. Private session 23.
  54. Private session 6; Private session 11.
  55. Private session 13.
  56. Private session 13.
  57. Private session 6; Private session 13.
  58. Private session 6; Private session 13.
  59. Private session 11.
  60. Private session 6; Private session 23.
  61. Private session 2; Private session 23.
  62. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 3 [10(c)].
  63. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-54 [25]–[27]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [15].
  64. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [14]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-37 [41]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-54 [30]–[35]; Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 19.
  65. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [14]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-37 [42]–[43].
  66. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-54 [33]–[35]; Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 2 [10(b)].
  67. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 2 [10(c)–(d)].
  68. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 5 [27]–[29].
  69. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [15]–[17].
  70. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 2 [10].
  71. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-38 [1]–[5]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4–5 [17].
  72. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-38 [9]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4 [14].
  73. Isobelle Barrett Meyering, Feminism and the Making of a Child Rights Revolution: 1969–1979 (Melbourne University Publishing, 2022) 10.
  74. Isobelle Barrett Meyering, Feminism and the Making of a Child Rights Revolution: 1969–1979 (Melbourne University Publishing, 2022) 10, 16.
  75. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 4 [21].
  76. Lisa Featherstone, Sexual Violence in Australia, 1970s–1980s: Rape and Child Sexual Abuse (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) 126.
  77. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 2 [7].
  78. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-39 [16]–[17]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 6 [24].
  79. Yorick Smaal, ‘Historical Perspectives on Child Sexual Abuse, Part 1’ (2013) 11(9) History Compass 702, 704.
  80. Yorick Smaal, ‘Historical Perspectives on Child Sexual Abuse, Part 1’ (2013) 11(9) History Compass 702, 704.
  81. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-45 [43]–[44]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 6 [25].
  82. Statement of Patrick O’Leary, 15 November 2023, 4 [28].
  83. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-46 [22]–[23]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 6 [26].
  84. Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 20; Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Criminal Justice Report (Report, 14 August 2017) pts III–VI, 5.
  85. Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic); Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 81.
  86. Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 81. The term ‘buggery’ was derived from the Buggery Act 1533 (UK), 25 Hen 8, which criminalised sexual intercourse between men. As a result of this derivation, anti-homosexual laws tended to stay silent regarding women.
  87. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-46 [23]–[25]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 6 [26].
  88. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 4 [24].
  89. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-60 [36]–[39]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 13 [68(a)]. See also Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 4 [24].
  90. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-69 [29]–[31]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 13 [68].
  91. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 2 [8].
  92. Private session 7.
  93. Private session 16.
  94. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 8 [33]; Antonia Quadara, Framework for Historical Influences on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: 1950–2014 (Report, December 2017) 14.
  95. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-54 [42]–[45].
  96. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-42 [11]–[26]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4–5 [17].
  97. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-56 [44]–[45].
  98. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-57 [10]–[12].
  99. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 3 [17].
  100. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-56 [47]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 6 [23].
  101. Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-42 [24]–[26]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 4–5 [17].
  102. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-57 [5]; Transcript of Katie Wright, 24 October 2023, P-42 [26]–[28]; Kerry Robinson and Cristyn Davies, ‘Docile Bodies and Heteronormative Moral Subjects: Constructing the Child and Sexual Knowledge in Schooling’ (2008) 12(4) Sexuality & Culture, 221, 222.
  103. Submission 2, 1.
  104. Private session 7.
  105. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [17]; Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 5 [18].
  106. Australian Law Reform Commission, Seen and Heard: Priority for Children in the Legal Process (Report No 84, 19 November 1997) [3.3].
  107. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [15]; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [10]–[13]; Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 6 [22].
  108. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [15]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 9 [41].
  109. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [14]–[17]; Angela Bartman, ‘Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child? Corporal Punishment in Schools Around the World’ (2002) 13(1) Indiana International & Comparative Law Review 283, 288.
  110. Donald Palmer, Valerie Feldman and Gemma McKibbin, The Role of Organisational Culture in Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Contexts (Final Report, December 2016) 41.
  111. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [15]–[19]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [15].
  112. Private session 23.
  113. Private session 2.
  114. Private session 15; The name ‘Wyatt’ is a pseudonym, Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 15 November 2023.
  115. Private session 22.
  116. Transcript of Patrick O’Leary, 16 November 2023, P-196 [45]–[47].
  117. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 3 [14].
  118. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-55 [11]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 4 [15].
  119. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 3 [17].
  120. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [21].
  121. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 7 [37].
  122. Statement of Michael Salter, 27 November 2023, 7 [23]; Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 3 [18].
  123. Private session 14.
  124. Submission 45, 4.
  125. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-67 [6]–[7], [11]–[12]; Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 3–4 [18]–[19].
  126. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-67 [9]–[11].
  127. Transcript of David Howes, 15 November 2023, P-148 [4]–[17].
  128. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 3 [16]–[17].
  129. Statement of Daryl Higgins, 28 November 2023, 7 [38].
  130. Jo Lovett, Maddy Coy and Liz Kelly, Deflection, Denial and Disbelief: Social and Political Discourses about Child Sexual Abuse and Their Influence on Institutional Responses (Rapid Evidence Assessment, February 2018) 10.
  131. Jo Lovett, Maddy Coy and Liz Kelly, Deflection, Denial and Disbelief: Social and Political Discourses about Child Sexual Abuse and Their Influence on Institutional Responses (Rapid Evidence Assessment, February 2018) 10.
  132. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 5 [24].
  133. Statement of Lisa Featherstone, 5 December 2023, 5 [23].
  134. Jonathan Davis, The Global 1980s: People, Power and Profit (Routledge, 2019) 1.
  135. Jonathan Davis, The Global 1980s: People, Power and Profit (Routledge, 2019) 1.
  136. Nina Esperanza Serrianne, America in the Nineties (Syracuse University Press, 2015) 1.
  137. Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 3, as enacted.
  138. Bob Hawke, ‘Election Speech’ (Speech, Sydney, 23 June 1987) <https://electionspeeches.moadoph.gov.au/speeches/1987-bob-hawke>(opens in a new window).
  139. Nina Esperanza Serrianne, America in the Nineties (Syracuse University Press, 2015) 1.
  140. Simon Marginson, ‘Globalization in Higher Education: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ in Fazal Rizvi, Bob Lingard and Risto Rinne (eds), Reimagining Globalization and Education (Routledge, 2022) 11, 14. See generally W Joseph Campbell, 1995: The Year the Future Began (University of California Press, 2015) 1–20.
  141. Mabo v Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1.
  142. ‘About Native Title’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Web Page, 2 November 2022) <https://aiatsis.gov.au/about-native-title>.(opens in a new window)
  143. ‘About Native Title’, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Web Page, 2 November 2022) <https://aiatsis.gov.au/about-native-title>.(opens in a new window)
  144. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 6 [26]; Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 5 [19]; Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 1980 (Vic); Hayley Boxall, Adam M Tomison and Shann Hulme, Historical Review of Sexual Offence and Child Sexual Abuse Legislation in Australia: 1788–2013 (Report, 1 September 2014) 81.

Chapter 7

Experiences of sexual abuse and its impact in childhood

Introduction

Victim-survivors shared with the Board of Inquiry their experiences of sexual abuse when they were children at primary school in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, as well as recollections of their childhood before and after their experiences of sexual abuse. Secondary victims and affected community members also shared their experiences and perspectives relevant to the work of the Board of Inquiry.

This Chapter brings together these accounts, consistent with the Board of Inquiry’s objective to establish an official public record of victim-survivors’ experiences of historical child sexual abuse. It explores how the sense of normality, safety and community many victim-survivors felt was shattered by the sexual abuse they recall experiencing at the hands of adults entrusted with their care. It describes some of the stories of sexual abuse shared by victim-survivors, their immediate reactions at the time and how these traumatic events affected their childhood. Longer-term impacts are described in Chapter 8, Enduring impacts of child sexual abuse.(opens in a new window)

The Board of Inquiry is not able to share all the experiences that were shared with it — sometimes because the relevant person shared the information confidentially, and at other times because the information was shared anonymously but could not be safely de-identified. In some cases, the information cannot be included in this report for legal or wellbeing reasons.

The Board of Inquiry has greatly valued all the experiences that were shared with it. Every story told to the Board of Inquiry has informed its work.

The Board of Inquiry shares the voices of victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members as part of the public record of experiences, but does not make any findings of fact in relation to these experiences. The Board of Inquiry has not examined or tested these experiences in order to make any findings; for example, it has not applied any legal tests that might be relevant to making findings in legal proceedings. These might include proof beyond reasonable doubt or proof on the balance of probabilities, the tests for criminal responsibility and civil liability, respectively.

Before the experience of sexual abuse

Many victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry they had safe, happy and ordinary childhoods prior to their experiences of sexual abuse. This was reflected in their experiences at school, through their engagement with sport, and in the family setting. Other victim-survivors recalled some difficulties at school or in their home lives.

School

Many victim-survivors shared fond memories of their time at primary school and of their teachers.1 Some remembered being enthusiastic about going to school prior to their experience of sexual abuse.2

One victim-survivor recalled:

I remember being excited about the prospect of school. I enjoyed it at first — I remember the Monday morning assemblies and once being invited to stand up on the platform and proudly exhibit to the whole school a maths poster I had created.3

Similarly, another victim-survivor shared that when he was at Beaumaris Primary School, ‘I was excited about going to school, I was a good student and I was reasonably bright’.4 The sibling of another victim-survivor shared that ‘[m]y brother … was a bright and energetic boy who was excited about going to school and learning and playing with his friends’.5 The Board of Inquiry heard from another victim-survivor that prior to his experience of sexual abuse he was ‘a normal student, very happy’, who ‘used to love going to school, used to love playing the sports at the school and really enjoyed most of the teachers there’.6

Another victim-survivor recounted:

I remember playing in the school ground, digging holes, doing just the normal stuff that kids did in the playground … learning to write and read and art class particularly, I remember ... my art teacher … [They were] quite supportive. I enjoyed art class.7

Other people also fondly remembered particular teachers whom they liked and felt were caring and trustworthy.8 One victim-survivor recalled that his Year 5 and 6 teacher ‘was a great teacher … very dedicated ... I got on really well with her’.9 Another reflected that his Year 4 teacher ‘was an amazing teacher’ who showed care for him because she knew about his difficult family situation.10

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that his Prep teacher gave all her students a tin of paint at the end of year, which he thought was ‘amazing’.11 He felt that his other teachers were ‘good all the way through’ his education.12

Some victim-survivors and individuals also reflected on aspects of school that they did not enjoy, separate to experiences of child sexual abuse. For example, some recollected teachers they did not like, whom they felt were not capable teachers or who mistreated students.13 Others commented on corporal punishment and different forms of discipline teachers used.

Others recalled observing inappropriate behaviour by teachers and felt that other children, teachers and parents must have known about the sexual abuse they experienced.

One individual told the Board of Inquiry that a fellow student had told him that he had been sexually abused by Wyatt.14 Another individual recalled ‘vivid memories’ of Wyatt sexually abusing another student.15 Similarly, another individual told the Board of Inquiry that he had noticed Darrell Ray ‘acting inappropriately toward other boys’ by sitting them on his knee and ‘rubbing their tummies under their shirts’ in front of others.16 Yet another individual recounted an incident where David MacGregor allegedly deliberately showed his penis, through his loose shorts, to a group of students.17

A number of victim-survivors changed schools during their primary school years, and this was often accompanied by a period of adjustment; for example, when they did not have friends at school and experienced feelings of loneliness.18 Other victim-survivors experienced different forms of isolation or bullying at school before the sexual abuse.19

Victim-survivors also told the Board of Inquiry about the gender dynamics among the staff at Beaumaris Primary School. One victim-survivor commented that there was a ‘gender divide’ between the teachers and that there were some male teachers you stayed away from.20 Another victim-survivor reflected that, although the teachers were predominantly women, some of the male teachers were ‘inseparable’,21 whilst another said it was like there was a ‘cabal of these blokes’.22

Among these recollections of what school was like at the time, some individuals reflected on the disappearance of eight-year-old Eloise Worledge in 1976, from her home in Beaumaris. One victim-survivor said there was a ‘heightened police presence’; another recalled that Eloise’s disappearance ‘impacted all of us’.23

Sports

Participating in sports was an important feature of some victim-survivors’ childhoods. It is a relevant feature of the experiences shared with the Board of Inquiry because for many victim-survivors, their story of sexual abuse is connected to sport in some way.

Victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that they had played a range of sports at school. One victim-survivor explained that he had played ‘[c]ricket, for the school football team, volleyball. Pretty much anything that was available’.24

The friend of a victim-survivor recalled that he and his friend would spend a lot of time together playing sport.25 Many children played sports for a number of different clubs, including the St Kilda Little League.

The Board of Inquiry heard that playing sports helped many children to make friends and fit in with other children.26 One individual explained that their school ‘was a really sporty school and [they] fitted in with that’.27 Another person told the Board of Inquiry that there was status associated with being a talented athlete or being in the top grades of a sport.28 Others recalled that they had been good at different sports as children. The sibling of a deceased victim-survivor recalled that their brother had been an ‘elite junior athlete’ who succeeded in multiple sports.29

For other victim-survivors, sport was not a prominent feature of their childhood. A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had disliked sport growing up. 30 He reflected that it was uncommon ‘as a young boy growing up in Melbourne in the 1970s’ to not be interested in cricket or football.31 Similarly, one victim-survivor recalled that he had made a ‘failed attempt at being a “normal” kid’ by going to football practice with other children.32

Family

Many victim-survivors reflected on their families and community. Some victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that their families were generally tight-knit, secure and loving.33 One victim-survivor recollected that they had positive childhood memories.34 Because it was the ‘baby boomer’ era, there were ‘lots of kids around’.35 Other victim-survivors had more difficult family lives; for example, due to illness within the family.36 Some victim-survivors with challenges at home felt they had been singled out for sexual abuse because they were vulnerable due to their family situation.37

Some people sharing their experiences with the Board of Inquiry clearly remembered the dominant social and cultural values of the time, as discussed earlier in this Part, in Chapter 6, Time and place(opens in a new window). Some recalled that their parents adopted ‘very stereotypical gender roles’,38 and that their fathers typically worked while their mothers raised them and their siblings. One victim-survivor shared that her family had ‘really high’ morals,39 while others recalled that their parents had a limited view of children’s rights. As one victim-survivor explained:

My parents were pretty much of that view — kids don’t have rights … [I]n some senses I was pretty rebellious. I think that parenting style forced me to be very independent as a kid …40

This sentiment was echoed by another victim-survivor, who explained that society ‘had a standard back then — a child should be seen but not heard’.41

Initial impressions and interactions with alleged perpetrators

The Board of Inquiry heard from many people about their interactions with and observations of alleged perpetrators during the 1960s and 1970s. This includes their memories of how they came to know the alleged perpetrator and their impressions of them.

Some victim-survivors remembered initially admiring the alleged perpetrator, seeking their approval and enjoying the special attention they were afforded before their experience of sexual abuse.42 For some of these victim-survivors, the violation of trust by a person they believed to be a safe and caring adult was particularly disorienting and confusing.43

Not all victim-survivors formed positive impressions of alleged perpetrators. Some recalled being wary of alleged perpetrators and feeling uncomfortable and unsafe in their presence.44 This was particularly the case when alleged perpetrators adopted an authoritarian approach and instilled fear in children through punishment, threats and violence.45

Alleged perpetrators building trust and connections with children and their families

Some victim-survivors recalled how alleged perpetrators ingratiated themselves with students and disarmed their families. Alleged perpetrators often achieved this by offering victim-survivors special privileges, such as trips away, or by facilitating coveted opportunities in sport or other extracurricular activities. This favourable treatment frequently created opportunities for alleged perpetrators to be alone with children.

Victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that alleged perpetrators often singled them out in a way that made them feel special. One individual shared that ‘often during lunchtime Graham Steele would have a group of the “sporty” boys in his classroom with whom he would chat and joke’.46 Some students noticed how differently Mr Steele treated these boys and one observed that ‘ironically [they] wanted to be a part of this’.47

One victim-survivor recalled that ‘[Mr Steele] would take some of us out to St Kilda football ground — we regarded ourselves as a bit special because of that’.48 Multiple victim-survivors detailed times that Mr Steele took groups of boys on trips away to his family holiday house, a setting where victim-survivors remember sexual abuse occurring.49

Teachers were often the gateway to opportunities that were desired by students. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he was happy to be in Mr Steele’s class as ‘he was the sport teacher and it seemed like the best opportunity to get access to coaching and the school sports teams’.50

Some alleged perpetrators appeared to structure their personal and professional lives around activities with children and went beyond what some in the school community expected from a teacher at the time, by spending additional time with students outside of school, often in the context of sport or other extracurricular activities.51

This was evident in recollections of Wyatt’s interactions with children. One victim-survivor recalled that Wyatt had coached children in a local sports club and appeared to pass a lot of time with children in the community.52 Others recalled that Wyatt had played sport with a student on the weekends, taken boys to sport after school and tutored students outside of school.53

Others similarly recalled that Mr Ray had also coached children in local sports clubs and transported them to and from games.54 One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that ‘[i]t was every kid’s dream to be in those teams’.55

While this dedication to students was often viewed positively, a number of students and their parents found some of the alleged perpetrators’ behaviour unusual, and recalled breaches of professional boundaries that struck them as strange at the time. For example, several people recalled that Mr MacGregor spent time with children at his house. One remembered that Mr MacGregor ‘took the whole class to his family house … for the end of school party’.56 They told the Board of Inquiry that they ‘felt it was very strange that he took some [students] inside to show [them] his bedroom’.57

Alleged perpetrators instilling fear and discomfort in children

While some victim-survivors recalled alleged perpetrators using charm and incentives to disarm students and their families, others remembered their use of threats and violence to achieve control and compliance. As a result, some victim-survivors recalled feeling fearful in the presence of certain alleged perpetrators. Others quickly developed a ‘bad feeling’ about alleged perpetrators who made them feel uncomfortable.

Some people described Mr MacGregor as a ‘weirdo’, ‘creepy’ or ‘inappropriate’.58 Other alleged perpetrators were described as ‘imposing’, ‘authoritarian’, ‘volatile’, ‘explosive’ and ‘cruel’.59 One individual felt that Wyatt ‘perhaps [took] some pleasure in the fear he could generate by threatening to use his strap’ on children.60 A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that Wyatt ‘had a reputation for corporal punishment’ and ‘would kick boys hard, like a horse would’, in a ‘very striking, very violent’ manner.61

Another victim-survivor recalled that Mr Steele struck him and other students with a large ruler. He felt that Mr Steele’s use of corporal punishment was how the sexual abuse started. He also detailed how Mr Steele repeatedly reminded him that his mother was unwell, which he understood to be intimidation designed to make him feel isolated.62

One victim-survivor described being taken by Mr Steele to an abattoir and forced to watch the slaughter of animals with three other students. The victim-survivor characterised the experience as ‘terrifying and traumatic’, and felt it was an implied threat of what would happen to the students if they disobeyed him.63

When a perpetrator of sexual abuse instils fear in a child, it makes them afraid to report the sexual abuse to other adults.

Recollections of sexual abuse

Most of the victim-survivors who shared their stories with the Board of Inquiry were, at the time of their experience of sexual abuse, aged between nine and 12 and were in Years 4 to 6. While the majority of victim-survivors who shared their experiences were men, a small number were women. In making this observation, the Board of Inquiry recognises that there are likely to be experiences of sexual abuse falling within its Terms of Reference that were not shared. Further, some victim-survivors who provided information to the Board of Inquiry chose not to describe the details of the child sexual abuse they experienced. For this reason, the experiences described in this section should not be understood as comprehensive or representative.

The Board of Inquiry heard that sexual abuse often occurred when children were isolated from other students and adults.64

Some of the sexual abuse described to the Board of Inquiry occurred on school premises — in the classroom or in other places at school.65 One victim-survivor recalled being sexually abused at lunchtime while visiting the library to borrow a book he was interested in. He told the Board of Inquiry that the alleged perpetrator had guided him into his office in the library where he was not visible to others, pushed him against the desk and begun rubbing his shoulders, chest and genitals.66

Sexual abuse also occurred in school settings beyond the premises, including on school camps and excursions.67 A victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had been made to sit next to an alleged perpetrator on a bus journey to a school camp.68 He remembered that the alleged perpetrator had ‘put a blanket over me and him’ and ‘just fondled me the whole trip’.69

Other victim-survivors had experienced sexual abuse outside of the school environment in locations such as alleged perpetrators’ private residences or residences of their families, at music lessons and at sporting activities.70

One victim-survivor shared that the ‘worst issues were in the football environment’, describing the incidents as ‘horrendous’ and ‘terrible’. He told the Board of Inquiry that boys had avoided showering after the games because, if they did, they would be ‘ogled or touched’.71

For some victim-survivors, the sexual abuse occurred once or a handful of times. For others, the sexual abuse was sustained over a lengthy period. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that the sexual abuse ‘wasn’t a one off, it was going on for years and years’.72 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that the sexual abuse occurred for nearly two years and became worse over time.73 For some victim-survivors, the sexual abuse involved more than one adult and sometimes other children.74

Immediate reactions

Victim-survivors described their immediate feelings of shock, shame, guilt and confusion during and immediately after the sexual abuse.

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had been ‘stunned’ and quickly experienced ‘shame and confusion’.75 He remembered that that the sexual abuse had ‘felt like [it lasted] hours, but was no doubt 20 to 30 seconds, maybe a minute or two’.76 He recalled ‘wandering around feeling very weird, strange within [himself] in the days and weeks afterwards’.77 Another victim-survivor described feeling scared, confused, ‘upset and hurting physically’ after he had been sexually abused.78 Yet another victim-survivor recounted being ‘very scared and always running home from school then staying in my room, but never talking about it’.79

A victim-survivor said he had felt anxious and fearful, and that he ‘didn’t know how to cope’ at the time of the sexual abuse.80 He recalled dissociating after being sexually abused, which felt ‘like a dark cloud’.81 The sibling of a deceased victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that their brother had experienced terrible nightmares and difficulty sleeping around the time of the sexual abuse.82

Another victim-survivor recalled immediate feelings of shame, blame and humiliation for the sexual abuse he experienced:

I remember clearly [thinking] … ‛don’t say anything to anyone, you’ll be humiliated, you’ll be embarrassed, they’ll laugh at you. Why didn’t you fight back? Why did you just sit there? Why didn’t you do anything?’.83

These feelings of shame were shared by others. For example, one victim-survivor recounted:

I remember being frozen by these actions and being barely able to breathe. Most of all I remember leaving his office and walking back to my seat thinking everyone was staring at me, knowing what had happened, me being bright red. In later years I started calling that walk the ‘walk of shame’.84

Another recalled that ‘[d]uring the incident, I was embarrassed. Immediately afterwards, I felt relieved it was over’.85

Some victim-survivors felt confused and did not clearly recognise that what had happened to them was sexual abuse.86 Undoubtedly, for many victim-survivors, this reaction was the product of not having been taught about sexual matters, let alone sexual abuse. Dr Rob Gordon OAM, Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, reflected to the Board of Inquiry that children who do not have a clear understanding of sexuality ‘can feel incredibly confused about what is happening to them’ when they are sexually abused, and that this can result in feelings of guilt.87

One victim-survivor, recounting how Mr Steele sexually abused him and other boys while drying them off after they took showers at Mr Steele’s family holiday house, recalled his feelings of confusion at the time. He explained: ‘we didn’t know how to say “This is wrong, what do we do about it? This isn’t right”’.88

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had felt that Mr Steele’s drying off of him and other boys after showers was strange.89 He thought that it was unusual at the time, but he ‘didn’t see it as sexual abuse … I was probably 10 or something, so I didn’t know what sex was’.90

Another victim-survivor had felt ‘quite uncomfortable’ after he was sexually abused, ‘but told [himself that the alleged perpetrator] was just being over friendly’.91 Yet another victim-survivor remembered that she had felt ‘uncomfortable’ and thought the alleged perpetrator was ‘creepy’.92 She commented that the sexual abuse had ‘changed my feelings about him as a teacher’.93 Dr Gordon gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that child sexual abuse that happens in the context of otherwise seemingly positive relationships with perpetrators can contribute to conflicting feelings for victim-survivors.94

One victim-survivor shared that, alongside strong feelings of fear and anxiety, ‘being touched created feelings of excitement as well that are very hard to process’.95 Dr Gordon described this as a ‘particularly destructive element of child sexual abuse’, in which ordinarily pleasurable sensations are experienced in ‘unpleasurable circumstances’.96

Feelings of shame and guilt can act as a barrier to disclosure. Many victim-survivors who engaged with the Board of Inquiry did not disclose their experience of child sexual abuse until well into adulthood. Some victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that they had been fearful of disclosing at the time because they did not want to be embarrassed or receive attention, because they were unsure how adults would respond or if they would be believed, or because they felt like they had done something wrong.97 Barriers to disclosure are explored in Chapter 12, Grooming and disclosure.(opens in a new window)

Impacts during childhood

The Board of Inquiry heard that, for some victim-survivors, their experience of sexual abuse has a significant impact on their primary school years. The effects included changes in their behaviour and engagement with schooling and sport, and strains on their relationships.98 A number of victim-survivors reported impacts that continued into — or emerged in — adolescence and adulthood; these impacts are described in Chapter 8.

Behavioural changes, including reduced engagement with education and sport

The Board of Inquiry heard that many victim-survivors showed significant changes in their behaviour, including losing interest in school or sport, after the sexual abuse occurred. The Board of Inquiry heard evidence from Dr Gordon that sexual abuse can cause children to have difficulty focusing on school, disrupt their engagement with activities, and contribute to their distrust of teachers and other authority figures.99

One victim-survivor spoke of going ‘off the rails’ after the sexual abuse.100 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that his behaviour at home and school had suddenly declined:

I became something of a problem child. I was aggressive at home and disassociated at school. I found it hard to get up and go to school and I no longer trusted authority figures.101

Another victim-survivor recalled that his behaviour had changed in that he became distrustful of other people and began ‘acting out’ by stealing from his father.102 Yet another victim-survivor recalled that due to the sexual abuse she told her parents that she no longer wished to participate in music lessons.103

The Board of Inquiry heard that victim-survivors lost interest in or otherwise struggled with their education as a result of their experiences of sexual abuse. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had struggled academically in late primary school and that he had felt he was not very good in any of his subjects because of the sexual abuse.104

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that his school performance ‘fell off a cliff’, adding that his learning had slowed or effectively stopped after the sexual abuse.105 Similarly, another victim-survivor recalled a psychologist recommending that he be held back a grade.106 Yet another victim-survivor recalled that, despite being an ‘avid reader’ prior to his experience of sexual abuse, he did not return to the library to borrow books for the rest of his primary school years because he considered it unsafe.107

Strains on relationships

Victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry how their experience of sexual abuse affected their relationships with friends and family during their childhood.

For one victim-survivor, the impacts on his relationships at school were significant. He recalled that the alleged perpetrator suggested that he become friends with other boys who had either witnessed or experienced similar sexual abuse.108 He did not understand why he was made to be friends with these boys, and recalled that, at the time, he had told his mum: ‘it is something I’ve been told to do’.109 The victim-survivor also told the Board of Inquiry that, as a result of the sexual abuse, he had isolated himself from his existing school friends to protect them from being sexually abused.110

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that the sexual abuse had ‘dealt my confidence a mortal blow’ and that ‘I was always looking for ways to retreat into the background’.111

One secondary victim told the Board of Inquiry that their brother had begun displaying sexualised behaviours at a young age, including inappropriate touching of other boys’ genitals.112

Other victim-survivors spoke about the effect of the sexual abuse on their relationship with their parents. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that on a number of occasions, he had left the school grounds during the day to avoid interacting with the alleged perpetrator and to protect himself from further sexual abuse. He described how his parents, who did not know that he had been sexually abused, were ‘shocked’ at how he was acting.113 Another described the ‘devastating impact’ on his trust for adults and recollected how he had begun stealing from his parents.114

Chapter 7 Endnotes

  1. See e.g.: Private session 13; Private session 22; Private session 23.
  2. Submission 38, 1.
  3. Submission 38, 1.
  4. Statement of Tim Courtney, 18 October 2023, 1 [6].
  5. Submission 35, 1.
  6. Private session 23.
  7. Private session 22.
  8. See e.g.: Private session 14; Private session 22; Private session 26.
  9. Private session 26.
  10. Private session 16.
  11. Private session 14.
  12. Private session 14.
  13. Private session 26; Submission 50, 2.
  14. Submission 26, 1.
  15. Submission 9, 1.
  16. Submission 6, 1.
  17. Submission 34, 1.
  18. Private session 10; Private session 15; Private session 20; Private session 33.
  19. See e.g.: Private session 7; Private session 26.
  20. Private session 15.
  21. Private session 1.
  22. Private session 15.
  23. Private session 1; Private session 3. The disappearance of Eloise Worledge is discussed in Chapter 3, Scope and interpretation.
  24. Private session 23.
  25. Private session 6.
  26. Private session 4.
  27. Private session 11.
  28. Private session 21.
  29. Private session 12.
  30. Private session 26.
  31. Private session 26.
  32. Submission 50, 4.
  33. See e.g.: Private session 14; Private session 21; Private session 23.
  34. Private session 17.
  35. Private session 17.
  36. See e.g.: Private session 16; Private session 36.
  37. See e.g.: Private session 16; Private session 36.
  38. Private session 15.
  39. Private session 17.
  40. Private session 26.
  41. Private session 9.
  42. See e.g.: Private session 14; Private session 22; Statement of ‘Bernard’, 19 October 2023, 1 [7].
  43. Private session 22.
  44. Private session 17.
  45. Private session 15; Private session 16.
  46. Submission 39, 1.
  47. Submission 39, 1.
  48. Private session 14.
  49. Statement of ‘Bernard’, 19 October 2023, 2 [10]; Private session 14.
  50. Statement of ‘Bernard’, 19 October 2023, 1 [7].
  51. Private session 35.
  52. Private session 7.
  53. Submission 50, 4; Private session 9.
  54. Private session 2; Private session 23.
  55. Private session 23.
  56. Submission 35, 1.
  57. Submission 35, 1.
  58. Private session 7; Private session 17; Submission 43, 1.
  59. Private session 14; Private session 15; Submission 26, 1.
  60. Submission 26, 1.
  61. Private session 15.
  62. Private session 16.
  63. Private session 14.
  64. See e.g.: Private session 7; Private session 15; Private session 16; Private session 23; Submission 2, 1; Submission 15, 1; Submission 38, 1; Submission 49, 1.
  65. See e.g.: Private session 15; Private session 16; Private session 33; Private session 38; Private session 39; Private session 40; Private session 41; Submission 2, 1; Submission 3, 1; Submission 11, 1; Submission 15, 1; Submission 38, 1; Submission 49, 1.
  66. Private session 15.
  67. See e.g.: Private session 16; Private session 20; Private session 26; Private session 32; Submission 43, 1.
  68. Private session 16.
  69. Private session 16.
  70. See e.g.: Private session 2; Private session 3; Private session 14; Private session 23; Private session 36.
  71. Private session 23.
  72. Private session 16.
  73. Private session 10.
  74. See e.g.: Private session 16; Private session 36; Private session 41.
  75. Private session 15.
  76. Private session 15.
  77. Private session 15.
  78. Private session 16.
  79. Submission 49, 1.
  80. Private session 24.
  81. Private session 24.
  82. Private session 12.
  83. Private session 20.
  84. Submission 38, 1.
  85. Submission 16, 1.
  86. See e.g.: Private session 10; Private session 26; Submission 49, 1.
  87. Statement of Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 3 [15].
  88. Private session 14.
  89. Private session 26.
  90. Private session 26.
  91. Submission 26, 1.
  92. Submission 43, 1.
  93. Private session 17.
  94. Statement of Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 3 [15].
  95. Private session 24.
  96. Statement of Rob Gordon. 22 November 2023, 3 [16].
  97. See e.g.: Private session 20; Private session 38; Submission 38, 1.
  98. See e.g.: Private session 4; Private session 14; Private session 22; Private session 7; Private session 16.
  99. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, P-280 [30] – P-281 [5], P-282 [34] – P-283 [3].
  100. Private session 14.
  101. Statement of Tim Courtney, 18 October 2023, 2 [14].
  102. Private session 24.
  103. Private session 3.
  104. Private session 16.
  105. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, 18 [10].
  106. Submission 15, 1.
  107. Private session 15.
  108. Private session 16.
  109. Private session 16.
  110. Private session 16.
  111. Submission 38, 1.
  112. Private session 12.
  113. Private session 23.
  114. Private session 29.

Chapter 8

Enduring impacts of child sexual abuse

Introduction

The impacts of historical child sexual abuse in institutional settings are complex, varied and, in many cases, enduring. These impacts are not limited to the individual — they extend across families, friends and loved ones, and to the broader community.

Victim-survivors reported significant effects from their experience of child sexual abuse throughout their life course. These effects were often interconnected. Further, they were commonly triggered or heightened by certain life events, such as forming relationships, having children or sharing their story with another person for the first time.

The impacts were not limited to the victim-survivor, but were also felt by those who love and support them. The Board of Inquiry heard many examples of victim-survivors feeling guilt and anguish over how their experience of child sexual abuse affected their relationships with their parents, their partners and their own children.

The secondary impacts experienced by partners, family members and friends were also varied, and were frequently connected to the impacts the victim-survivor felt at a particular time. Secondary victims often described their grief in witnessing the day-to-day suffering of victim-survivors, and their desperation to help them get the support and care they needed to heal.

The experiences reported by victim-survivors from Beaumaris Primary School also profoundly affected the local community more broadly. Within close-knit communities, revelations about child sexual abuse can constitute a collective trauma, and diminish trust between its members and respect for its leaders and institutions.

This Chapter primarily focuses on the experiences of victim-survivors and secondary victims as shared directly with the Board of Inquiry, in their own words. It also includes literature and expert evidence on the broader impacts of historical child sexual abuse on communities and society.

Victim-survivors: effects over time

The effects of child sexual abuse can be experienced by victim-survivors throughout their life course.1 These effects can vary, and may be heightened at different stages of their life.2

Victim-survivors who spoke with the Board of Inquiry experienced effects in connection with:

  • mental health and wellbeing3
  • living with complex trauma4
  • educational and employment opportunities5
  • relationships6
  • parenting and children7
  • premature death of other victim-survivors of child sexual abuse.8

The Board of Inquiry heard that, while some victim-survivors experienced more acute effects in their childhood and adolescence,9 others were more greatly affected later in their adulthood.10 Some victim-survivors experienced profound effects in both childhood and adulthood.11 Other victim-survivors did not consider the child sexual abuse to have affected them significantly.12 This diversity of experience is consistent with literature on the effects of institutional child sexual abuse, which shows that individuals and groups experience different impacts, and that these can change throughout their life course.13

The diversity of victim-survivor experiences as related to the Board of Inquiry was consistent with the expert evidence heard by the inquiry. For example, Professor Leah Bromfield, Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection and Chair of Child Protection, University of South Australia, told the Board of Inquiry that ‘[t]here is no one pathway, no right or wrong way for impacts’ experienced by victims-survivors to manifest, either in time or place.14

Experts also told the Board of Inquiry that it is common for the onset of different effects to occur at key moments of a victim-survivor’s life.15 These key moments — which can include completing school, becoming a parent, raising children, the passing of parents or learning about the child sexual abuse of other victim-survivors — may also contribute to changes in the nature and intensity of the effects of the child sexual abuse the victim-survivor experienced.

Tragically, as discussed below, the Board of Inquiry heard from secondary victims of victim-survivors who died prematurely, in circumstances that were considered to be connected to their experience of child sexual abuse.

The point at which a victim-survivor discloses child sexual abuse can also shape the impacts they experience. Many victim-survivors who engaged with the Board of Inquiry did not disclose until adulthood. This means that victim-survivors may have been burdened by carrying a secret, with their initial feelings of shame and guilt compounding over time. Some victim-survivors explained that they had repressed their memories of child sexual abuse.16 One victim-survivor recalled that when he disclosed, ‘it was like a bomb’.17 Disclosure is discussed in Chapter 12, Grooming and disclosure(opens in a new window).

For many, the effects of their experience of child sexual abuse have reverberated, with earlier impacts contributing to or causing other effects or changes later in life. For example, disengagement from school as a result of child sexual abuse can affect a person’s career trajectory, which in turn can affect their level of financial security.

Victim-survivors and secondary victims who shared their stories with the Board of Inquiry also displayed enormous hope, strength and resilience in the face of adversity. It is not inevitable that a victim-survivor will experience exclusively negative outcomes throughout their life course.18 With the right support and care, many victim-survivors can recover from their traumatic experiences and live satisfying and happy lives that are not defined by their child sexual abuse.19 As the Board of Inquiry saw, many victim-survivors become motivated to contribute to safer outcomes for children in their professional and personal lives. These experiences are also reflected in this Chapter.

Poor mental health and wellbeing

The Board of Inquiry heard that many victim-survivors experienced poor mental health and wellbeing in connection with their experience of child sexual abuse. Mental health challenges varied in their form and severity throughout their life course. For some victim-survivors, challenges included diagnosed mental illnesses such as depression,20 anxiety,21 post-traumatic stress disorder22 and schizophrenia.23

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry:

I have a lifelong history of anxiety and depression, which started around the time that I was at Beaumaris Primary School. Most of my adult life I have taken medication. I cannot say to what extent my experiences at Beaumaris Primary School contributed to this. However, I have always felt that my time at Beaumaris Primary School was a turning point for the worse in my life.24

Another victim-survivor described how his mental health suffered as a teenager, and that these problems continued into adulthood:

As a teenager and young adult I engaged in risky behaviour, had trouble with authority and went through bouts of heavy drinking and depression. I also had and continue to have difficulty with stress, anxiety and depression.25

The Board of Inquiry heard that some victim-survivors had developed poor mental health early on in their adulthood, shortly after finishing secondary school.26 Dr Rob Gordon OAM, Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that ‘[t]here is no hard or fast rule with respect to when symptoms resulting from child sexual abuse will manifest’.27 While some children will experience ‘immediate onset’, for others, symptom onset may not occur until later in life.28 Dr Gordon explained in his evidence that ‘[s]ymptom onset for a particular victim-survivor is generally related to the meaning the child gives to the actions of the [sexual] abuse’.29

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had developed ‘major depression’ after finishing school.30 Although he acknowledged a family history of depression, he felt that it had ‘come out quicker, harder and more nasty than it could have’ because of the child sexual abuse, and that ‘the onset and degree of severity were added to by the sex[ual] abuse’.31

A secondary victim shared that, after the victim-survivor they knew attempted suicide, the victim-survivor was diagnosed with ‘depression, having an inadequate personality or having schizophrenia’.32 Another secondary victim told the Board of Inquiry that a victim-survivor they knew had had suicidal thoughts and spent a period in a mental healthcare facility.33 For another victim-survivor, their mental illness resulted in them being hospitalised.34

For many victim-survivors sharing their experiences, the challenges with mental health have been enduring — changing in intensity or re-emerging at different points throughout their life course. One victim-survivor explained:

I’ve suffered depression for at least 20 years … I don’t know how long I’ve even had depression …

[W]hen the black dog bites and when I’m at my worst, I come back to these things and I go over them and over them and over them …

It’s just a rut that I don’t have the tools to get out of sometimes. So here I am, a 60-year-old human, still shaken up, still stirred, still enraged, still disgusted and just churned up.35

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that trauma as a result of child sexual abuse had been in his life for 50 years, and that he had depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.36 Another victim-survivor described himself as a ‘lifer’, in reference to his sustained experience of poor mental health.37

Other victim-survivors shared that their mental health challenges had worsened at different times in their lives, particularly where they had needed to engage with traumatic memories of their experience. For example, one victim-survivor shared that his anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder were ‘through the roof’ while he was engaged in civil litigation in relation to the child sexual abuse he had experienced.38 Another victim-survivor explained that ‘all of a sudden, a little trigger sets [the trauma] off’.39

A secondary victim, whose relative had been sexually abused as a child, told the Board of Inquiry that their relative had lived with anxiety for years, but the effects had worsened more recently:

[He has] particularly gone downhill in the last 10 years, and certainly since our parents passed away … [He is] really lost. He puts it down to the impact of [the child sexual abuse] … [and] he sort of said this is why he couldn’t form relationships and struggled …40

Some victim-survivors shared that they had self-harmed or contemplated self-harm in connection with their mental illness and trauma.41 Other victim-survivors had contemplated or attempted suicide in adulthood.42 Professor Patrick O’Leary, Co-Lead, Disrupting Violence Beacon and Director of the Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith University, told the Board of Inquiry that constantly having to live with suicidal thoughts has a significant impact on victim-survivors.43 One victim-survivor shared:

I have suffered two nervous breakdowns, with depression and suicidal thoughts. The first when I was in my early 40’s and became overwhelmed with life. The second was in [the 2010s] and I was put into [a mental healthcare facility] for five weeks and attended an eight week out-patient clinic followed by years of group therapy.44

Some victim-survivors felt that they had repressed or contained the trauma from the child sexual abuse.45 One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry: ‘I just sort of locked it off. I put that aside’ and ‘it stayed in a box for 27 years’.46 Another victim-survivor similarly shared:

I was able to shut that down and put it aside … [A]s long as I didn’t say anything and no one found out, I was safe … The lid stays on it, and I don’t open it.47

Some victim-survivors described feeling enormous guilt about not reporting their experiences earlier, particularly when they later learned the alleged perpetrator of the child sexual abuse they experienced also harmed other children:

The difficulty is, way back in that time, I saw myself to be secretive and I didn’t speak up … No matter how logical I can be that I was 10 … no one can tell me that if I hadn’t spoken, that it wouldn’t have made a difference.48

Difficulties associated with living with complex trauma

The Board of Inquiry heard about the significant and complex trauma that victim-survivors lived with after the child sexual abuse. This manifested in victim-survivors turning to different means of managing their trauma and the pervasive effects it had had on their lives. Some victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry of drug and alcohol use and addiction,49 eating disorders,50 gambling and engaging in criminal behaviour as responses to the trauma.51

One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had used alcohol and drugs ‘to try to forget’ and that doing so had ‘allowed [him] to hide’.52 He commented that he knew five or six other victim-survivors who were sexually abused as children by alleged perpetrators and were too affected by drugs to tell their stories.53 Other victim-survivors also spoke about using drugs, including alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamines, in the years since their experiences of child sexual abuse.54 Some individuals told the Board of Inquiry that they had observed victim-survivors using these coping strategies.55 Dr Gordon explained that victim-survivors can develop habits such as gambling and substance abuse to shift their focus away from their experience of child sexual abuse.56

Education and employment challenges

Some victim-survivors shared that they felt the child sexual abuse they experienced had resulted in missed educational and employment opportunities in adulthood, and described their grief about not having the opportunity to fulfil their potential. For some victim-survivors, these missed opportunities flowed from their loss of interest in school.

One victim-survivor recalled how the effects of child sexual abuse flowed through into his secondary education. He told the Board of Inquiry: ‘I found myself miles behind [in high school] … I kind of felt like [learning] was taken away from me’.57

Another victim-survivor shared that he had had ‘trouble holding jobs down’, had quit many of the jobs that he had held, and was working only part-time because of how he had struggled with the effects of the child sexual abuse.58 Others reported feeling like they had fallen short of their potential in their career,59 or had found it hard to maintain employment.60

Yet another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry about the effect of the child sexual abuse on his career:

The last 20 years have been tough. Financially it was incredibly difficult. And I was dealing with emotions I did not understand … I was focused on keeping my family well and earning money. But my expectations and career dreams were gone … I recognised that I could not work at the same level, sadly.61

Professor Bromfield explained in her evidence that victim-survivors commonly reflect on their lost career and other opportunities throughout their life course.62 She described how victim-survivors feel that these educational and employment opportunities are lost because of their disengagement from school or other activities, such as sport or music.63 One victim-survivor recalled how his experience of child sexual abuse had caused him to lose interest in playing sports that he had previously enjoyed.64 He told the Board of Inquiry: ‘I stopped playing sport in high school. I took a step back’.65 In his evidence, Dr Gordon explained that child sexual abuse can damage a victim-survivor’s sense of identity, contribute to self-criticism and lead to difficulties in relationships with others.66 These effects can cause negative educational and employment outcomes.67

The Board of Inquiry is aware of another victim-survivor, who has passed away, whom secondary victims said had the potential for a successful sporting career had it not been cut short by his experience of child sexual abuse.68 The victim-survivor turned down a sports scholarship that would have allowed him to study overseas, and chose not to pursue a professional sporting career.69 The sibling of this victim-survivor believes these decisions to be connected to the victim-survivor not feeling safe after his experience of child sexual abuse.70

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that participating in a civil claim affected his employment.71 He had taken long periods of personal leave since lodging the claim and ultimately felt that he was unable to return to work.72 He described his difficulty in working, knowing what had happened to him and other students.73

Victim-survivors have expressed to the Board of Inquiry their feelings of shame, disappointment and frustration about not having achieved their potential.74 These missed opportunities have contributed to financial difficulties and a lack of financial security for some victim-survivors and their families.75

While other victim-survivors did not explicitly discuss career or educational challenges, there may have been a relationship between other impacts, such as poor mental health, and their academic or employment outcomes.76

Relationship difficulties

The Board of Inquiry heard from victim-survivors and secondary victims about how the experience of child sexual abuse had affected relationships between victim-survivors and their loved ones throughout their life course. This includes relationships with partners, children, siblings, friends and other family members.

Victim-survivors recalled becoming distant and isolated from their friends later in their schooling as a result of the child sexual abuse they experienced. One victim-survivor reflected:

I became a little bit withdrawn and at lunchtimes I would just wander round school aimlessly and started to lose connections with people — with the friends I first made when I went to high school.77

Some victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that they had struggled with forming and maintaining relationships.78 One victim-survivor explained: ‘I developed a strong life-long pattern of withholding communication, having great difficulties to engage in those big and important discussions that matter in relationships’.79 Dr Gordon’s professional experience was that ‘victim-survivors … may be reluctant to have intimate relationships’, preferring feeling lonely over the risk of others finding out about the child sexual abuse.80

The Board of Inquiry also heard that the child sexual abuse affected victim-survivors’ sexual development and intimate relationships. One victim-survivor shared that she used to cry during sexual intercourse,81 while another told the Board of Inquiry: ‘as I grew older and into adolescence, [the child sexual abuse] really confused me sexually around sex and that being a safe place’.82 Dr Gordon gave evidence that victim-survivors of child sexual abuse may develop a ‘deep aversion to sexuality’, which can lead to difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.83

Victim-survivors’ relationships with their partners and children have also been affected. One victim-survivor felt that the impact of his experience of child sexual abuse on his family ‘has been enormous’.84 He told the Board of Inquiry that, because of his difficulty with maintaining a career that would allow him to support his family, his spouse had carried the responsibility alone.85 While another victim-survivor shared that, while he was using alcohol to manage his trauma, he did not spend much time with his partner and family.86 Other victim-survivors spoke of the difficulty of talking about their experience of child sexual abuse with their partners.87

The Board of Inquiry also heard about the strained relationships that some victim-survivors had with their parents, which continued into adulthood. One victim-survivor described being dismissed by his parents when, years later, he told them his story of child sexual abuse.88 Many victim-survivors explained that they had never been able to tell their parents what happened and felt this had impacted the relationship. One victim-survivor, for example, told the Board of Inquiry that he wished he had been able to disclose to his parents and explain why his behaviour had changed at school, but could not do so as they had since passed away.89 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that his father had been hard on him about his school results, but he felt he could not talk to his parents about his experience of child sexual abuse and its effects.90 Yet another shared that he had not discussed his experience of child sexual abuse with his parents and that ‘it took a long time for [my mother] to trust me because of all the mental health challenges I had. It wasn’t until I was in my late 40s, 50s that we built that relationship where I could talk to her about things’.91

Some victim-survivors’ shared that their lives had been improved by close relationships with loved ones after they disclosed their experiences of child sexual abuse. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he had been fortunate to have a partner and friends who had helped him navigate and access different services and processes.92 Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry: ‘I couldn’t have done it without [my family and friends], but I had to be able to talk about it. When I told my older brother he cried’.93

One victim-survivor expressed to the Board of Inquiry that marrying and having children had been a strength and a focus for him.94 The Board of Inquiry heard many similar stories of loved ones supporting victim-survivors in the years since the experience of child sexual abuse.95

Conflicting feelings about parenting and children

Some victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry about how the child sexual abuse they experienced affected their relationships with children. This included interactions with children generally and their decision regarding whether to become a parent. For those who did have children, some described how the child sexual abuse they experienced influenced the way they parented.

Professor Bromfield gave evidence that, from her engagement with victim-survivors and their experiences, victim-survivors may feel that the ‘opportunities they might have had to be the parent that they want to be or to be a parent at all’ were lost because of the child sexual abuse.96

Some victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that they had not had children because of their experience of child sexual abuse.97 For one victim-survivor, the child sexual abuse caused him to decide at a young age to not have children.98 He shared that the experience of watching his friends raise their children ‘destroys’ him.99

Another victim-survivor similarly recalled that he had been reluctant to have children.100 Yet another felt uncomfortable about the possibility that the child sexual abuse he experienced ‘might make [him] more predisposed to harming kids’.101 He later realised ‘that wasn’t who [he] was’ and he eventually pursued a career working with children.102 The partner of a victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that she did not think that her partner had ever hugged her children.103

Other victim-survivors spoke of discomfort with their children and grandchildren. One told the Board of Inquiry that he had initially felt uncomfortable changing his baby’s nappy.104 These feelings of discomfort re-emerged when his grandchild was born.105 Similarly, another recalled that he had found it difficult to pick up his children when they were young.106

Professor Bromfield gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry about the impact of ‘the pervasive belief in the victim-to-offender theory’, which hypothesises that ‘men who are the victims of child sexual abuse are at risk of becoming perpetrators of child sexual abuse’.107 In her evidence, Professor Bromfield said that she considered this theory to be unhelpful, as most male victim-survivors do not become perpetrators of child sexual abuse.108 One victim-survivor acknowledged that this theory had affected them, despite considering it a ‘myth’.109

Other victim-survivors have been very protective of their children — sometimes overly protective. One victim-survivor recalled that he was ‘like a wolf, very protective of [his] kids’.110 He explained that he had always been present with his children, ‘[m]aking sure they were safe and okay’.111 Another told the Board of Inquiry that, when his child started primary school, he intentionally spent more time with his child in the school environment to ensure that it was safe for them.112 Others told the Board of Inquiry that they had been ‘strict’ or ‘hypervigilan[t]’ about their children’s safety.113

Premature death

The Board of Inquiry heard about the premature deaths of victim-survivors that were considered to be connected to their experience of child sexual abuse.114 Some individuals commented on victim-survivors dying in connection with substance use and mental health issues.115

These accounts are consistent with research that has found that people who were sexually abused as children have higher mortality rates than the general population.116 Child abuse and neglect more broadly contribute to healthy years of life lost due to premature death and illness, including anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, suicide and self-inflicted injuries.117

Not defining victim-survivors by their experiences of child sexual abuse

While the Board of Inquiry received detailed information about the negative effects of child sexual abuse on victim-survivors throughout their life course, it is important to reflect on the diversity of experience among victim-survivors, as well as the resilience many have shown in living with and overcoming these effects.

The effects of child sexual abuse differ for all individuals and change over time. As described above, some victim-survivors sharing their experiences with the Board of Inquiry did not consider the child sexual abuse they experienced to have had a significant impact on their lives. Further, while child sexual abuse can have serious and complex impacts, the experience of child sexual abuse does not have to define the lives of victim-survivors. Access to appropriate support and care to manage the effects of trauma is important for this to occur.118 The Board of Inquiry heard from victim-survivors who have experienced happiness and success in their personal and professional lives, notwithstanding their private struggles.

Several victim-survivors told the Board of Inquiry that they chose to pursue careers that would help other people, including children. Some victim-survivors have had careers as teachers in schools.119 One victim-survivor shared that he had coached boys in sports to show them that, in contrast to his experience as a child, ‘sport is a great thing’.120

Another victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that he has worked in his chosen profession in a range of environments, including with young boys affected by child sexual abuse and other trauma:

I … started to understand my journey was not a lone journey … At that time I didn’t know that, that other people have had sort of similar journeys to me and it’s affected them in probably even worse ways … I think looking back now, I wanted to protect others because I wasn’t protected.121

Many victim-survivors have focused on pursuing justice or providing support to other victim-survivors.122 One victim-survivor shared that throughout his life, despite other challenges he has faced, he has continued to fight for justice.123

Secondary victims

The Board of Inquiry heard directly from a number of secondary victims about the significant flow-on effects of their loved one’s experience of child sexual abuse. The Board of Inquiry heard about effects on victim-survivors’ partners, parents, children and other family members. Secondary victims who spoke to the Board of Inquiry had experienced the breakdown of relationships and mental health impacts such as vicarious trauma. They had also felt the responsibility of caring for their loved one.

Victim-survivors also spoke with the Board of Inquiry about the impact on secondary victims. One victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry:

[T]here is an opportunity to intervene as quickly as possible, but equally to prohibit [the trauma] from being intergenerational … because … it will have certain effects on different people in different ways.124

Common experiences of secondary victims

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) recognised that, although the experiences of secondary victims are different to those of victim-survivors, the effects on secondary victims of child sexual abuse and institutional responses to it can also be significant.125 In a research paper commissioned by the Royal Commission, the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that the families of victim-survivors experienced various impacts, including on:

  • their mental and physical health
  • the levels of tension, anxiety and conflict in their family
  • their long-term relationships with family members, including with extended family,
    such as in-laws and cousins
  • their marriages and partnerships
  • their feelings of social connectedness.126

Relationship difficulties

The Board of Inquiry heard that some relationships between victim-survivors and secondary victims had been negatively affected by the impacts of child sexual abuse. In some cases, relationships had broken down altogether. One victim-survivor described being affected by the fact that disclosing child sexual abuse to family and friends can ‘generate anxiety and resentment towards the person that has been abused because of the impact you are having on family and friends’.127

For some partners of victim-survivors, the impact of the experience of child sexual abuse has affected the quality of their relationship and their sense of connection with the victim-survivor. The partner of one victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry that, while they have a committed and supportive relationship with their partner, they have felt at times that their needs have been unmet as their partner lives with the trauma of child sexual abuse.128 They described having, at times, to distance themselves from their partner.129

One secondary victim shared that she and the victim-survivor no longer sleep together and that the impacts of his experience of child sexual abuse have changed the dynamics of their relationship.130 She also felt that their children’s relationships with the victim-survivor have been affected by the impacts of the experience of child sexual abuse.131

Another secondary victim opened up about the extent to which the child sexual abuse her husband experienced and his attempts to manage it have affected her and her family, practically and emotionally. She told the Board of Inquiry that, although she has supported her partner throughout their marriage and provided stability — such as by working, managing the household and caring for their children — her husband has continued to struggle with the impacts of child sexual abuse.132

Yet another secondary victim told the Board of Inquiry about the way relationships between their family members had been affected. They told the Board of Inquiry that their parents had distanced themselves emotionally, socially and physically from the victim-survivor (who was their brother), and that they had ‘judged [his] mental illness’ and ‘believe[d] it reflected badly on them as parents’.133 They added that, after the victim-survivor’s death, their mother had ‘struggled to acknowledge [he] was her child and could not tell people that he had died’.134

This secondary victim also told the Board of Inquiry that their own relationship with their parents had been affected, with their parents distancing themselves from them in order to protect themselves from reminders of their loss or grief.135 They did, however, describe their brother’s relationships with them and their other sibling as ‘safe and normal and ongoing and … non-judgemental’.136 This secondary victim felt that their brother had ‘loved the normality’ of the relationship and that it was unaffected by the child sexual abuse he experienced.137

Poor mental health and wellbeing

The Board of Inquiry heard about the poor mental health and wellbeing that secondary victims experienced after learning about a victim-survivor’s experience of child sexual abuse or upon witnessing the effects of the child sexual abuse on the victim-survivor’s life.

One secondary victim told the Board of Inquiry that the effects of the child sexual abuse her husband experienced had affected her own mental health:

Living in an environment where the scars of this abuse are ever present, I too experience panic and anxiety due to the constant tension and emotional turmoil within our relationship of living with the effects of this abuse.138

Another secondary victim shared that her and her family’s lives had been ‘traumatically affected’ by the child sexual abuse her husband experienced, and shared that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.139 Yet another described finding out that their sibling had been sexually abused as a child as ‘unimaginable’.140

For some secondary victims, the mental health effects were closely connected to feelings of shame, guilt or responsibility for the victim-survivor’s experience of child sexual abuse.141 One victim-survivor expressed that he thought his parents had ‘both felt a great deal of guilt’ about the child sexual abuse he experienced.142 He described his parents as being ‘very crestfallen [and] gutted’ when he disclosed the child sexual abuse to them for the first time.143 He went on to say that one of his parents, who was a teacher at Beaumaris Primary School, was ‘devastated’ — not only because of what he told them about his experience of child sexual abuse, but also because this parent had been professionally close to the alleged perpetrator.144

While the Board of Inquiry did not hear from any parents of victim-survivors (which is not surprising, given the time that has passed since the child sexual abuse occurred), these individuals’ accounts of the impact on victim-survivors’ parents are consistent with academic literature. A study on the effects of child sexual abuse on non-offending parents concluded that feelings of failure and guilt were the primary long-term response.145

Responsibility for effects on secondary victims

Victim-survivors spoke openly and honestly about the effects their experience of child sexual abuse have had on their loved ones. Some shared that they felt responsible for these effects. For example, one victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry:

I’ve always felt a lot of guilt since 2000 [when I disclosed], because I should have said something when I was 10, and yeah okay, I shouldn’t judge myself too harshly as a 10-year-old … [T]hose impacts on my parents … have had a very strong and continuing effect on me. They added to, in a very significant way, what was already an enduring sense of shame that I’ve carried since 1973.146

Another victim-survivor shared with the Board of Inquiry: ‘I gamble a lot, it’s my escapism. [My poor partner] puts up with it’.147 Other victim-survivors have not disclosed the full details of the child sexual abuse they experienced to loved ones, fearing the effect it may have on them. For example, one victim-survivor told the Board of Inquiry: ‘I haven’t told my wife the full story of what happened to me … It just hurts and I don’t want to hurt her’.148

Feelings of shame and guilt can perpetuate silence and are barriers to disclosure. As Professor Bromfield explained in her evidence to the Board of Inquiry:

Fear of the impacts of child sexual abuse on their loved ones can be used by perpetrators to help maintain the silence of victim-survivors. Wanting to avoid adversely impacting their loved ones can also be a factor considered by victim-survivors in deciding whether to disclose their abuse or seek help, including into adulthood.149

Affected communities and wider society

The aftermath of child sexual abuse can extend throughout entire communities and society more widely.

Local communities

The reverberating effects of child sexual abuse throughout communities and across generations often amount to a sense of shared trauma. This is because trauma, such as the trauma associated with child sexual abuse, is ‘not only an individual psychological phenomenon but also a collective one’.150 Entire communities can be affected by the dynamics of trauma.151 In particular, institutional child sexual abuse is ‘associated with vicarious trauma’ for individuals and families and across communities.152

In reference to clerical child sexual abuse, Dr Katie Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University, gave evidence that ‘it became apparent that the traumatic effects extended beyond victim-survivors to also encompass wider communities’.153 Similarly, Professor Bromfield gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that ‘[t]here are … examples where the impacts on the local community have created a sense of collective trauma, comparable to that which might occur in the context of a human caused or natural disaster’.154

Although the shared experience of trauma associated with natural disasters or conflicts is often felt immediately, the collective trauma associated with child sexual abuse may not emerge until later.155 This is because child sexual abuse is often perpetrated in private and knowledge of it emerges to different sections of the community at different times, meaning a sense of shared trauma often does not occur at the time the child sexual abuse occurs.156

In the context of child sexual abuse, Dr Wright explained in her evidence that experiences of collective trauma unfold throughout communities as they grapple with the understanding that ‘something terrible has happened within their community’.157 The level of collective trauma experienced could be influenced by the extent to which the community remains intact and how the institution where the child sexual abuse occurred responds to it.158

The Board of Inquiry heard from some victim-survivors and secondary victims about how the experiences of victim-survivors of child sexual abuse at Beaumaris Primary School affected the Beaumaris community and are still discussed today. The impact on the community in Beaumaris is heightened by the fact that many victim-survivors, their families and other community members with knowledge of the experience of victim-survivors still live in the area. In describing the impact, one victim-survivor said that there was a feeling within the community that it was not safe.159 She went on to say that ‘we’re all still talking about it’.160 Similarly, another victim-survivor said that victim-survivors discussed their experiences ‘down at the local pub’,161 while yet another commented that there was ‘still a considerable amount of anger’ about the child sexual abuse and how it had been responded to.162 A secondary victim recalled that ‘now there is a bit of momentum’ regarding people disclosing, there were more people saying: ‘it was me too’.163 Another individual described the impact on the local community as ‘profound’, and reflected on the feelings of grief for victim-survivors and the lives ‘they should have had’.164

Using information gathered by the Royal Commission, Professor Bromfield researched the impacts of institutional child sexual abuse. She found that the reactions of communities affiliated with the institutions at which child sexual abuse occurred could vary.165 Some affected communities responded with ‘disbelief and hostility’, while others grappled with ‘their own grief and guilt from their association with the offender’.166 One affected community member told the Board of Inquiry that she remained concerned that her son had been sexually abused by an alleged perpetrator, but that she ‘will never know definitively’.167

Professor O’Leary gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that communities may express disbelief after learning about incidents of child sexual abuse, because the perpetrator was ‘so good’ and ‘served the community’.168 The Royal Commission recognised that ‘community connectedness can be shattered by the revelation of child sexual abuse, especially when the perpetrator is well-liked or the institution is respected or trusted’.169

The impacts of the experience of child sexual abuse on victim-survivors also meant that, in many cases, the community suffered from the missed opportunities in victim-survivors’ lives. The ongoing trauma of child sexual abuse hindered the ability of some victim-survivors to engage fully in community life. One victim-survivor commented that they had left Victoria partly because of the trauma associated with the child sexual abuse.170 Furthermore, communities have been devastated by the lives lost to child sexual abuse.

Wider society

There is evidence that child sexual abuse, particularly institutional child sexual abuse, causes broader public harm.171 As the Royal Commission identified, the societal impacts of child sexual abuse are ‘difficult to quantify’, yet are ‘broad and pervasive’.172 The Royal Commission recognised that the effects of institutional child sexual abuse have likely ‘directly and indirectly affected the lives of countless people in Australia today’.173

The public harms of child sexual abuse include detrimental social impacts, such as a loss of trust in institutions responsible for keeping children safe. Researchers have pointed to the ‘profound sense of alienation that results from institutional betrayal’.174 Professor Bromfield gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that:

Where a large number of children are discovered to have been affected by child sexual abuse in important public institutions this can also impact the broader community. For example, it can erode public trust in institutions and affect parents’ sense of safety in entrusting their children to the care of institutions.175

Society is also affected by the impacts of child sexual abuse experienced by victim-survivors and secondary victims. As Dr Joseph Tucci, CEO, Australian Childhood Foundation, told the Board of Inquiry: ‘The societal and community cost of the pain and suffering caused by child sexual abuse is enormous. There is also a huge economic cost of child sexual abuse’.176 The Royal Commission noted that while the economic costs of child sexual abuse are difficult to quantify, it is ‘likely to be in the billions of dollars each year’.177 One study also recognised the significant economic productivity losses arising from child sexual abuse related to poorer educational and employment outcomes for victim-survivors compared with the general population, and ‘costs’ to other service systems, such as child protection and the criminal justice systems.178 Although this study focused on the United States of America, its conclusions are likely applicable in the Victorian context.

Despite these significant impacts on the wider community, there is evidence that child sexual abuse remains largely invisible and ignored by the public, and that there is limited understanding of the seriousness, scale and cost of child sexual abuse.179

Chapter 8 Endnotes

  1. James Leslie Herbert et al, ‘Impacts of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: What We Have Learned from Research and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse Private Sessions’ in India Bryce and Wayne Petherick (eds), Child Sexual Abuse: Forensic Issues in Evidence, Impact, and Management (Academic Press, 2020) 221, 231.
  2. James Leslie Herbert et al, ‘Impacts of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: What We Have Learned from Research and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse Private Sessions’ in India Bryce and Wayne Petherick (eds), Child Sexual Abuse: Forensic Issues in Evidence, Impact, and Management (Academic Press, 2020) 221, 231.
  3. See e.g.: Private session 15; Private session 7; Private session 12; Private session 4.
  4. See e.g.: Private session 12; Private session 2; Private session 23; Private session 24.
  5. See e.g.: Private session 4; Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, 18 [10]; Submission 49, 1; Private session 6; Private session 12; Private session 20.
  6. See e.g.: Submission 15, 1-2; Submission 50, 11; Submission 49, 1; Private session 36; Private session 23; Submission 2, 1.
  7. See e.g.: Private session 20; Submission 4, 1; Submission 2, 1; Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, 19 [12]–[25]; Private session 23.
  8. See e.g.: Private session 12; Private session 9; Private session 3.
  9. See e.g.: Private session 7.
  10. See e.g.: Private session 2.
  11. See e.g.: Private session 15.
  12. See e.g.: Submission 27, 1.
  13. James Leslie Herbert et al, ‘Impacts of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: What We Have Learned from Research and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse Private Sessions’ in India Bryce and Wayne Petherick (eds), Child Sexual Abuse: Forensic Issues in Evidence, Impact, and Management (Academic Press, 2020) 221.
  14. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-70 [15]–[16].
  15. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, P-286 [31]–[34]; Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 13 [67].
  16. Submission 4, 1; Private session 3; Private session 11; Private session 15; Private session 31.
  17. Private session 31.
  18. Jerusha Sanjeevi et al, ‘A Review of Child Sexual Abuse: Impact, Risk, and Resilience in the Context of Culture’ (2018) 27 Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 622, 626; Ilan Katz et al, Life Journeys of Victim/Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in Institutions: An Analysis of Royal Commission Private Sessions (Report, December 2017) 16; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, 68 [6]–[14].
  19. Ilan Katz et al, Life Journeys of Victim/Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in Institutions: An Analysis of Royal Commission Private Sessions (Report, December 2017) 16; Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, 68 [6]–[14].
  20. See e.g.: Private session 15; Private session 7; Private session 12.
  21. See e.g.: Private session 4; Private session 11.
  22. See e.g.: Private session 4; Private session 10.
  23. See e.g.: Private session 12.
  24. Submission 26, 1.
  25. Submission 49, 1.
  26. See e.g.: Private session 7; Private session 11.
  27. Statement of Peter Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 4 [17].
  28. Statement of Peter Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 4 [17].
  29. Statement of Peter Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 4 [17].
  30. Private session 7.
  31. Private session 7.
  32. Private session 12.
  33. Private session 30.
  34. Private session 24.
  35. Private session 15.
  36. Private session 4.
  37. Private session 7.
  38. Private session 2.
  39. Private session 39.
  40. Private session 17.
  41. Private session 24; Private session 4.
  42. See e.g.: Submission 4, 1; Private session 2; Private session 10; Private session 15; Private session 31; Submission 15, 1.
  43. Statement of Patrick O’Leary, 15 November 2023, 8 [57].
  44. Submission 15, 1.
  45. See e.g.: Private session 15; Private session 20; Private session 31; Private session 39.
  46. Private session 15.
  47. Private session 20.
  48. Private session 20.
  49. See e.g.: Private session 12; Private session 2; Private session 23; Private session 24.
  50. Private session 24.
  51. Private session 2.
  52. Private session 2.
  53. Private session 2.
  54. Submission 15, 1; Private session 23.
  55. See e.g.: Private session 12; Private session 32.
  56. Statement of Peter Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 8 [36].
  57. Private session 23.
  58. Private session 4.
  59. Submission 49, 1.
  60. See e.g.: Private session 22; Private session 38.
  61. Private session 10.
  62. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, 68 [28]–[34].
  63. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, 68 [28]–[34].
  64. Private session 4.
  65. Private session 4.
  66. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, 283 [7]–[35].
  67. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, 283 [7]–[35].
  68. Private session 6; Private session 12.
  69. Private session 12.
  70. Private session 12.
  71. Private session 20.
  72. Private session 20.
  73. Private session 20.
  74. Private session 36; Submission 49, 1.
  75. Submission 49, 1.
  76. Jazlyn M Mitchell, Kathryn A Becker-Blease and Raechel N Soicher, ‘Child Sexual Abuse, Academic Functioning and Educational Outcomes in Emerging Adulthood’ (2021) 30(3) Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 278, 292; Alan Barrett and Yumiko Kamiya, ‘Childhood Sexual Abuse and Later-Life Economic Consequences’ (2014) 53(1) Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics 10, 15–16.
  77. Private session 22.
  78. See e.g.: Submission 15, 1; Private session 22; Private session 31; Private session 33; Submission 50, 12.
  79. Submission 50, 12.
  80. Statement of Rob Gordon, 22 November 2023, 5 [22].
  81. Private session 3.
  82. Private session 29.
  83. Transcript of Rob Gordon, 23 November 2023, P-284 [14]–[21].
  84. Submission 49, 1.
  85. Submission 49, 1.
  86. Submission 15, 2.
  87. See e.g.: Private session 36; Private session 23.
  88. Submission 2, 1.
  89. Private session 23.
  90. Private session 36.
  91. Private session 29.
  92. Private session 9.
  93. Private session 4.
  94. Private session 14.
  95. Private session 23.
  96. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-68 [36]–[37].
  97. Private session 20; Submission 4, 1.
  98. Submission 4, 1.
  99. Submission 4, 1.
  100. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, 19 [6].
  101. Private session 20.
  102. Private session 20.
  103. Private session 19.
  104. Submission 2, 1.
  105. Submission 2, 1.
  106. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-19 [12]-[25].
  107. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 13 [68(c)].
  108. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 13 [68(c)].
  109. Private session 20.
  110. Private session 23.
  111. Private session 23.
  112. Transcript of Tim Courtney, 23 October 2023, P-19 [12]–[25].
  113. See e.g.: Private session 14; Private session 31.
  114. See e.g.: Private session 6; Private session 12; Private session 9; Private session 3.
  115. See e.g.: Private session 12; Private session 6.
  116. Nina Papalia et al, ‘Sexual Abuse During Childhood and All-cause Mortality into Middle Adulthood: An Australian Cohort Study’ (2023) 219(7) Medical Journal of Australia 310, 312.
  117. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: Interactive Data on Risk Factor Burden (Web Report, 24 November 2021) <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/abds-2018-interactive-data-risk-factors/contents/child-abuse-and-neglect>(opens in a new window).
  118. Emma Bond, Fiona Ellis and Jenny McCusker, I’ll Be a Survivor for the Rest of My Life: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse and Their Experience of Support Services (Technical Report, 2018) 44.
  119. See e.g.: Private session 15; Private session 20.
  120. Private session 4.
  121. Private session 14.
  122. Private session 19.
  123. Private session 16.
  124. Private session 9.
  125. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 3, 202.
  126. Antonia Quadara, Mary Stathopoulos and Rachel Carson, Family Relationships and the Disclosure of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Report, July 2016) 11.
  127. Private session 9.
  128. Private session 19.
  129. Private session 19.
  130. Private session 30.
  131. Private session 30.
  132. Submission 33, 1.
  133. Private session 12.
  134. Private session 12.
  135. Private session 12.
  136. Private session 12.
  137. Private session 12.
  138. Submission 21, 1.
  139. Submission 33, 1.
  140. Private session 32.
  141. See e.g.: Private session 15; Private session 13.
  142. Private session 15.
  143. Private session 15.
  144. Private session 15.
  145. Georgina Fuller, ‘Non-offending Parents as Secondary Victims of Child Sexual Assault’ (2016) 500 Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice (Australian Institute of Criminology) 4.
  146. Private session 15.
  147. Private session 2.
  148. Private session 23.
  149. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 14 [71].
  150. Arlene Audergon, ‘Collective Trauma: The Nightmare of History’ (2004) 2(1) Psychotherapy and Politics International 16, 16.
  151. Arlene Audergon, ‘Collective Trauma: The Nightmare of History’ (2004) 2(1) Psychotherapy and Politics International 16, 20.
  152. Tamara Blakemore et al, ‘The Impacts of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: A Rapid Review of the Evidence’ (2017) 74 Child Abuse & Neglect 35, 35.
  153. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 9 [39].
  154. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 14 [72].
  155. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 8 [35].
  156. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 8 [35].
  157. Statement of Katie Wright, 23 October 2023, 8 [35].
  158. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-72 [39] – P-73 [14].
  159. Private session 3.
  160. Private session 3.
  161. Private session 17.
  162. Private session 40.
  163. Private session 33.
  164. Private session 13.
  165. James Leslie Herbert et al, ‘Impacts of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: What We Have Learned from Research and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse Private Sessions’ in India Bryce and Wayne Petherick (eds), Child Sexual Abuse: Forensic Issues in Evidence, Impact, and Management (Academic Press, 2020) 221, 233.
  166. James Leslie Herbert et al, ‘Impacts of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: What We Have Learned from Research and the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse Private Sessions’ in India Bryce and Wayne Petherick (eds), Child Sexual Abuse: Forensic Issues in Evidence, Impact, and Management (Academic Press, 2020) 221, 233.
  167. Private session 35.
  168. Transcript of Patrick O’Leary, 16 November 2023, P-198 [2].
  169. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 3, 224.
  170. Private session 16.
  171. Cate Fisher et al, The Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse: A Rapid Evidence Assessment (Report, July 2017) 154.
  172. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 3, 233.
  173. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 3, 231.
  174. Kathleen McPhillips et al, ‘Understanding Trauma as a System of Psycho-social Harm: Contributions from the Australian Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse’ (2020) 99 Child Abuse & Neglect 1, 5.
  175. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 14 [72].
  176. Statement of Joseph Tucci, 21 November 2023, 9 [42].
  177. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 3, 233.
  178. Laura E Henkhaus, ‘The Lasting Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Human Capital and Economic Well-being’ (2022) 31 Health Economics 1954, 1967.
  179. Joseph Tucci and Janise Mitchell, ‘Still Unseen and Ignored: Tracking Community Knowledge and Attitudes about Child Abuse and Child Protection in Australia’ (2022) 13 Frontiers in Psychology 1, 1.

Chapter 9

Personal stories

Introduction

Around 120 victim-survivors, secondary victims, affected community members and other stakeholders shared their experiences and hopes for the future with the Board of Inquiry. These contributions were integral to the Board of Inquiry’s understanding of the experience of child sexual abuse, as well as how people and communities experienced its impacts, what they considered to be failings of the system, the impact of those failures on their lives, and their insights into what is needed to promote healing.

Many gave consent for their accounts to be published as short, de-identified narratives that capture their experiences in their own words. This Chapter contains a selection of these narratives. The purpose of these narratives is to share the experiences of victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members, and to help the broader community develop a better understanding of the life-long impacts of child sexual abuse. By promoting the acknowledgement of harm and outlining available supports, the Board of Inquiry hopes to make a positive contribution to the journey of hope and healing for victim-survivors of sexual abuse, their loved ones and communities. Through further increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of child sexual abuse, the Board of Inquiry seeks to contribute to a future that is safer for every child.

The narratives are derived from the recollections of victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members, and are told in their own words with their own language choices.

People were encouraged to share their experiences with the Board of Inquiry in a range of ways, and their sharing was enabled by three critical factors: choice, control and the option of confidentiality. Victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members had choice and control over whether to engage with the Board of Inquiry and about the nature and extent of their participation, and they could withdraw their consent to participate at any time. In some cases though, legal or other considerations meant that there were limits on the degree of choice available to a person — for example, as discussed further below, where legal considerations meant a victim-survivor’s experience could not be shared publicly even if they wished for this to happen.

The Board of Inquiry shares the experiences of victim-survivors, secondary victims and affected community members to create an important public record of their recollections. The Board of Inquiry has not examined or tested the accuracy of these accounts and has not assessed whether there is enough evidence to support criminal or civil proceedings. The Board of Inquiry makes no findings of fact in relation to any of them.

To avoid the risk of prejudice to any current or future legal proceedings, and to meet other legal obligations relating to privacy, the Board of Inquiry determined that it would keep the information and personal experiences participants have shared anonymous and has used pseudonyms (made-up names) for some people. In addition, the Board of Inquiry is not able to share all experiences, because the relevant person shared the information confidentially, because anonymous information is unable to be safely de-identified, or for other legal or wellbeing reasons.

The Board of Inquiry greatly values the experiences participants shared with it, all of which have informed its work. The Board of Inquiry recognises that these were extremely personal and painful experiences and recognises how difficult and distressing it was for some people to share them. Many did so because they recognised the Board of Inquiry was seeking to create a public record of child sexual abuse experiences. Others participated as a way to contribute to their own process of healing. Overwhelmingly, participants wanted to contribute to positive changes that will make children safer in the future. The Board of Inquiry thanks each person who shared their experience and acknowledges their courage and strength.

‘Hank’

Hank1

I had what I think was a normal early childhood. My family was pretty normal. I played quite a bit of sport — cricket, football and lifesaving for the local clubs in Beaumaris.

During my time at Beaumaris Primary School I was abused by a teacher, ‘Tony’, and everything changed forever for me. In the mid-1970s I was in Grade 4. I was nine years old.

At a Beaumaris Primary School photo day, Tony abused me. This wasn’t the first time Tony abused me, but it was the first time it was in a public setting. I was in the cricket, football and swimming teams so I had a few photos I had to be in that day. After the cricket team photo was taken, I was getting changed into my uniform for the football team photo. When I was getting changed, Tony came up behind me and sexually abused me. After that I didn’t want to get in the football team photo. I felt sick.

Being abused by Tony had a huge impact on my life. During primary school, I began to despise teachers and other authority figures like him. From when I was really young I knew that I was a gifted athlete and was told I’d have a real future at the highest level of elite sport if I wanted it. Tony’s involvement in sport at both the school and in the community really ruined my experience of childhood. I went from being a happy-go-lucky kid, to a kid and an adult who was angry, anxious and socially withdrawn. Tony abusing me became linked to the very things I loved.

I loved playing football but my memories of that time now are dominated by avoiding Tony and the threat of being sexually abused.

So many kids over the years have been abused by teachers at Beaumaris Primary School, including Tony. I know now that he and others were moved to different schools. I think a lot of people in the community knew.

I remember a teacher who I will refer to as ‘Avery’ being around when Tony abused me on photo day. Avery didn’t ask me what had happened. In hindsight, I think Avery knew what happened. Avery just told me to get my pants back on, shut up and get in the photos.

I didn’t tell anyone at the time, except my mother, about the abuse I suffered. She told me not to be silly and ignored it. We weren’t allowed to talk about that sort of thing — there was a culture of keeping quiet.

Later my dad found out about allegations against Tony and I remember my dad going to confront him. I remember another parent telling Tony not to touch their kids as well.

As a result of the abuse I suffered at Beaumaris Primary School and other organisations, I’ve had a difficult life, struggling with addiction and mental ill-health. I know people who were abused that have died by suicide. I know other victim-survivors who just use drugs or alcohol and wait to die.

I’ve practised transcendental meditation, which has been incredibly useful for helping me to understand and live with my trauma. It goes deeper than just ‘mindfulness’ — it is a specific practice that I have studied and aim to implement in my life every day. My ice therapy has helped me with anxiety and depression and PTSD. I would really like the inquiry to look into these types of healing methods because I believe they could help others.

I have also had very positive experiences with a 12-step program. I really think meditation and that 12-step program have saved my life in a way. They have been tools for me to turn to when I have been in my darkest times. I really think more should be done to help survivors access these types of supports. I had to go on a long and hard road before I found meditation and that 12-step program and I think the reason it took so long was because there is not a good understanding of trauma in government, in the legal profession and in the community. It felt like lots of places that I went to for help couldn’t properly understand the impacts of trauma.

Over the years I’ve thought that I want to set up my own trauma healing centre for survivors of child sexual abuse. I think there needs to be a specific type of service available for people just with this type of trauma, as well as for addiction. Conventional approaches don’t work with this type of trauma — we need dedicated services.

When I think about the response from the government and Department of Education I look at it like this — if nothing changes, nothing changes. I don’t want an empty apology, the damage has been done. It needs to be followed by change. I think Victoria should introduce tougher sentencing for perpetrators of child sexual abuse. They’re the ones who allowed this to happen and turned a blind eye to what was going on. I reckon teachers knew what was going on. My mind can’t take me back to exactly what life was like back then, but you weren’t allowed a voice. It was just do as you were told or if you were out of line you’d get belted or caned or the strap or detention.

My trauma is why I needed to tell my story — for so long I hid behind a mask of fear. Drugs and alcohol allowed me to hide. There isn’t a day since recovery started that I can forget what took place, let alone forgive perpetrators. Thanks to the 12-step program, I am now five years clean. I don’t do self-pity anymore.

I just want this Inquiry to understand that if nothing changes, nothing changes. We need action to improve understanding of trauma now. The truth needs to come out and there needs to be better support to help people who have suffered this type of horrendous abuse.

‘Christie’

'Christie'2

While at primary school in the 1970s, my parents arranged with Beaumaris Primary School for me to take extra-curricular lessons after school with one of the teachers, ‘Cody’.

At the first few after-school lessons, Cody was okay. But then, Cody started acting differently in these after-school lessons. He started coming up behind me and pressing himself against my back. Eventually, this progressed to Cody leaning over me and putting his hand down my top. I still recall the feeling of Cody’s hands touching me. Even at the time, this made me feel uncomfortable. But I was frozen; I felt helpless. I don’t recall how many times Cody abused me.

I told my mum that I didn’t want to have the after-school lessons anymore, but I never told my parents when I was a child about the abuse. I recall hiding under my bed and in my wardrobe to feel safer especially when Cody would visit our home.

For many years, I suppressed the memories of my abuse. I did not remember details until I was an adult. In recent years, after an article about the abuse suffered by another child at my school was published, I have been able to recall and describe more details of the abuse I suffered.

The impact of the abuse on me has been life-long. I remember my time at Beaumaris Primary School as traumatic; that there was a sense that no-one felt safe. I feel ashamed that I didn’t try to stop Cody’s abuse. As an adult, I have had relationship issues which I link to that abuse. When I eventually told my father about my experiences, he was horrified and full of guilt.

I thought I might be the only female from Beaumaris Primary School to come forward about the abuse I have suffered. However, I don’t think it would make sense that I was the only one. I have made it my mission to get in contact with other people who may have been abused by Cody. Even though talking about my abuse makes me anxious and panicky, I came forward to the Board of Inquiry because the abuse that I suffered cannot happen to another child.

There is a need for specialised mental health support for victim-survivors, delivered by people who understand what happens in the brains of victim-survivors and understand why their pain doesn’t just go away. Many of my classmates who disclosed similar abuse are still in the process of recovering their own memories.

I cannot bear to lose another primary school friend based on their horrific childhood sexual abuse experiences which should have been stopped by the teachers who knew what was going on and by an Education Department that just moved the problem onto other schools and other children.

Tim Courtney

Tim Courtney3

I was born in Melbourne and grew up in the suburb of Beaumaris where my parents had built our family home. I grew up with a twin sister and an older brother. I attended Beaumaris Primary School between 1969 and 1976, from Grade Prep through to Grade 6.

I enjoyed my time at Beaumaris Primary School when I started. I was excited about going to school, I was a good student and I was reasonably bright. I was young for my grade, so I was small in stature for many years at school.

I was first abused by a teacher who I will refer to as ‘Wayne’. Wayne abused me many times. In or around 1972, my Grade 3 teacher at Beaumaris Primary School was ‘Reuben’.

That year, Wayne abused me in front of Reuben, as if Wayne was showing Reuben how he would abuse me. I remember this happening several more times around that time. Soon after, Reuben started sexually abusing me himself. Reuben would put his hands down my pants and fondle my genitals. Many times, this occurred at lunchtime or after school and often Wayne would watch on while Reuben abused me. Reuben abused me regularly for three to six months of that year. I couldn’t keep count of how many times Reuben abused me.

The sexual abuse I suffered as a child had serious and profound impacts on my life.

Once the abuse started, my behaviour declined at home and at school suddenly. I became something of a problem child. I was aggressive at home and dissociated at school. I found it hard to get up and go to school, and I no longer trusted authority figures. While I was a good student when I started school, my academic side materially declined following the abuse. I managed to finish school, but I was limited in what I could retain and learn.

I did not tell my parents about the abuse at the time because one of my abusers threatened that he would harm me if I told anyone. I can’t remember the exact words he used but I remember feeling threatened. My parents did not know what to do about my change in behaviour; my mother went to the school to seek answers as to why my behaviour had declined so suddenly. My parents had no idea why I had changed.

I have had life-long concerns about doing things in public. I do not like people touching me or standing behind me. When my son started primary school, I found it very difficult when people touched him or interacted with him.

Unlike some other victim-survivors from Beaumaris Primary School who I have since spoken to as adults, I always knew that I was not the only victim-survivor of child sexual abuse at that school. I knew because I saw other children get abused. I worry about how the other victim-survivors have coped. I can still picture the horrified looks on other children’s faces while they watched me being abused in front of them, trying to work out what was going on. My psychiatrist said it was unusual that the abuse had taken place so overtly in front of other children.

When someone is exposed to child sexual abuse, there are inevitably long-term impacts which extend to families and friends. My family and friends have had to bear the brunt of the impacts of the abuse I suffered, including my behaviour changing because of my post-traumatic stress disorder. That secondary impact on them caused them anxiety, and resentment towards me. The impact of child sexual abuse is like dropping a stone in a pond; the ripple affects many people, in different ways.

I do not know for sure whether Beaumaris Primary School or the government knew or had suspicions about my abuse. My belief is that people in authority at the school were aware of the abuse and tried to put things in place to try to stop the abuse that ultimately weren’t successful. I reported my abuse by Reuben to police, but the matter did not proceed.

I first sought support in connection with the abuse I suffered when I was aged in my early 20s. Around 1999, I went to the Law Institute of Victoria to ask about getting legal advice around making disclosures about my abuse.

I have always felt like that there were not enough formal systems in place to help me and other survivors obtain support. I relied on my family and my networks to help me find and build my support network. My experience is that there is still a gulf between places recognising that you have been abused and places that help you address that abuse. For example, knowmore has been a helpful legal service to make me aware of my rights as a victim-survivor, but they are not resourced to guide you through subsequent processes.

I have seen a psychiatrist and a trauma psychologist about my abuse. The support they have each provided to me are materially different and have helped me in their own ways. My psychiatrist has done many forms of psychotherapy and discussed other forms of treatment with me and has been able to offer me in-patient intervention and pharmaceutical treatment when I’ve needed it. My trauma psychologist observes how I am feeling and gives me exercises to do when she observes me starting to dissociate. Both clinicians have been very important to me.

With the assistance of my lawyers, I have also accessed the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. I couldn’t have accessed this help on my own because when I first found out about it, it was too overwhelming, too complex and too poorly explained for me to navigate by myself. I made a civil claim against Beaumaris Primary School and the Department of Education in connection with the abuse I suffered.

I am participating in this Board of Inquiry because I want to shine a light on the child sexual abuse which occurred to me and others at Beaumaris Primary School and other schools, which I hope will increase awareness of the risks of child sexual abuse and improve the supports provided to child and adult victim-survivors of sexual abuse.

In some ways, I feel lucky that I have been able to draw on my family and my networks to obtain legal and other supports. I recognise that not everyone is so lucky. Currently, I feel that the provision of support to victim-survivors, including legal, counselling and family support, is very disparate and difficult to navigate. This is not helped by, in my experience, the impact of child sexual abuse overwhelmingly reducing a victim-survivor’s capacity to do things, take on information, process that information and solve problems.

Mental health services are often hard to access and expensive. I have observed what appear to be fewer and fewer psychiatrists specialising in child sexual abuse who are willing to take on new clients. More mental health services need to be funded and made available specifically to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse.

I believe that victim-survivors of child sexual would be immensely assisted by the introduction of a ‘one-stop shop’ which a victim-survivor can contact to report their abuse. The organisation can then triage their various needs, advocate for their rights, and provide the necessary advice and referrals to guide them through the process of seeking mental health support, social networks, redress and recognition. I often receive calls from people asking me to recommend a service which can support them as a victim-survivor of child sexual abuse, and I find that I do not know of a single entity I can suggest that they contact to cover off on their needs, or at least refer them in the right direction.

Access to support services must also be improved for secondary victim-survivors such as friends and family members of victim-survivors who may themselves be exposed to post-traumatic stress disorder and other impacts of abuse. There should be a way for families to access support as early as possible to prevent the impacts of abuse, from becoming intergenerational.

In my experience, there are often delays in victim-survivors coming forward to report their abuse because of threats of retaliation and shame. Again, I believe that early intervention, particularly in childhood, is very important because delays can make victim-survivors increasingly socially isolated. I support the mandatory reporting reform which has occurred in Victoria since I was a child. However, I do not think mandatory reporting is enough and might sometimes be difficult or confronting for school staff to navigate. Independent reporting mechanisms and a whistleblower policy should be introduced within schools to allow teachers, students, parents and other members of the community to report allegations or suspicions of child sexual abuse without risk of repercussion. Such reports should be received by an independent third party, outside of the Department of Education and school structures, who then investigates the complaint. I think Victoria should look to other jurisdictions, within Australia and outside of Australia, to see if there are suitable models to study.

The standard of education for child safety has improved since I was at school. Back then, the standard was that a child should be seen but not heard. Today we listen to children more. But the risks to children have still not been totally removed. I think more could still be done to educate children, teachers and members of the community on child safety.

Finally, I think a memorial for victim-survivors at Beaumaris Primary School should be built. I think it would be an important landmark and public acknowledgement of the history of child sexual abuse at the school to assist in the healing of victim-survivors. A memorial at Trinity Grammar School in Kew or a central one like the Victoria Police memorial at Kings Domain could be considered for Beaumaris Primary School and perhaps extended to all abuse survivors from Victorian government schools. Such a memorial should be positive, recognise the past and show what the future looks like. It could be placed near the Department of Education’s head office. It cannot be hidden.

‘Bernard’

'Bernard'4

I was born and grew up in Beaumaris with my family. I thought the area was great to grow up in, especially having the beach so close by. My siblings and I attended Beaumaris Primary School.

I remember one year that I found out I was going to be in Grahame Steele’s class the following year. The kids who liked sports hoped to be in Mr Steele’s class since he was the sport teacher and it seemed like the best opportunity to get access to coaching and the school sports teams. I was really into sport so when I found out I was going to be in Mr Steele’s class the next year I was happy with that outcome.

I was sexually abused by Mr Steele on three occasions that I can recall.

The first time was during the cricket season. I had strained a stomach muscle bowling during cricket practice and Mr Steele had told me to stop bowling. A few days later during class Mr Steele told me that he wanted to give me some treatment for my stomach injury. He took me out of class on my own and took me to a small room off the school hall. I think it may have been a treatment room because there was a massage bed in there.

Mr Steele had me lie on my back on the massage bed. He lifted up my shirt to expose my stomach muscles, but he also took down my pants and underpants. He rubbed my stomach with one hand while he touched my genitals with his other hand. That went on for some time before we returned to the classroom but I do not know exactly how long.

When we returned to the classroom, I remember one of the other boys asking, ‘did he dack you?’, meaning did Mr Steele pull down my pants. I said yes and I remember wondering how the other student knew, but I didn’t ask. I cannot recall who it was that asked me that.

The second time Mr Steele abused me was when he and another teacher took a group of around eight boys to a holiday house near the beach. I cannot recall what time of year it was or who the other teacher was that came on the trip, but I remember there being another adult besides Mr Steele. I recall the house we stayed at had two storeys and bunk beds but I can’t remember whether it was a rental or owned by one of the adults.

One day, after we had been to the beach, Mr Steele brought me back to the house ahead of the rest of the group. He stripped all my clothes off and showered me, washing me with his hands and touching my genitals again. I remember him drying me off after the shower as well. I don’t remember too much after that; it went blank for me after that. The rest of the group must have returned to the house.

The third incident I can remember was during the drive back from that weekend in Mr Steele’s car. There must have been another vehicle for the trip as we could not have all fit into Mr Steele’s car, but I remember sitting in the front of his car driving back while there were other kids in the back seat. I remember it was nighttime.

While he was driving, he put me on his lap to steer the car. While I was in his lap he put his hands in my groin area and was rubbing my genitals while I was steering the car.

Students always thought Mr Steele’s class was the best class to be in, especially if you loved sport, because he was the sport teacher. It never occurred to me to tell anyone about the abuse at the time.

I do not recall telling anyone about the abuse at the time and I do not remember anyone talking about those sorts of things while I was at school.

Many years later I ran into some other former students of Beaumaris Primary School. We talked about the school and one of them asked if I knew what had been going on between students and teachers at the school. That immediately triggered memories for me. I told him I thought I knew what he was talking about. I understood that he was referring to sexual abuse of students by teachers at the school. He told me that when he and some of the students in other classes got in trouble and were sent to the Principal’s office, the students would tell the Principal that they knew what was going on between teachers and students and threatened to tell someone if they were disciplined. I understood this to mean that students would use the threat of reporting the sexual abuse of other students to not be disciplined.

I was shocked and angry when I heard that other people knew what was going on and it seemed to me that they had used this information to their advantage. But they were only 11-year-old kids, so I can’t be angry that they didn’t stop it or tell anyone.

On the face of it, I think at least some staff at Beaumaris Primary School knew about what was happening, knew that teachers were abusing students, and did nothing.

I want to know whether there was a network of teachers abusing students and if they were working together. How did they end up at Beaumaris Primary School? How were they allowed to continue with nothing being done at the time? I want to understand how these teachers were able to stay at the school as a group and operate over a number of years.

In the years since I was at Beaumaris Primary School I have tried to make sense of what happened to me. I’ve wondered if Grahame Steele targeted the boys he wanted to abuse and, if so, whether boys were allocated to his class for this reason.

I realised the extent of the abuse at Beaumaris Primary School as it has come out in media coverage. I feel there is even more to it, as Grahame Steele had not initially been mentioned in the media coverage in connection with some of the other teachers who have been alleged to have abused students there.

After high school I took a step back and stopped playing sport for a while. My experiences at Beaumaris Primary School have always been there for the last 50 years. I didn’t speak to any family or friends about it.

Recently I told my GP about the abuse and he asked me if I wanted to try and see a psychologist again. I did and started having telehealth sessions with a psychologist. I was open with the psychologist from the start about my experiences.

I’ve also recently told my siblings as well as my children about the abuse. I wanted them to understand me better. They knew there was something wrong and that I’ve struggled.

At different times when I’ve struggled in my life, I have accessed mental health support services without disclosing what happened to me.

I had 14 sessions with the psychologist before I wasn’t allowed to have any more. I’m not sure exactly why the sessions stopped — it might have been a funding issue, but she also left the service I was seeing her through and I didn’t want to start the process over again with someone new.

The media coverage, announcement of the Board of Inquiry and my sessions with the psychologist have all helped me start to come to terms with my experiences. It has been liberating and has gotten me to the point where I can talk about what happened without it destroying me for weeks or months. Talking about it, especially with the psychologist, has helped with nightmares I had been having as well. She gave me practical strategies to start to deal with my experiences.

Previously, I had felt like I didn’t get much out of counselling sessions, but I think talking to the particular psychologist I was seeing recently has helped. It was important for me to have found the right psychologist that I was able to be open with. I think this would be important for any victim-survivor — until you speak to a particular psychologist or support person you don’t know how far you might be willing to take it or how open you feel you can be.

The support of my family and friends has been important and I couldn’t have spoken up today without them. Talking to the psychologist recently allowed me to then open up to family and friends after 50 years of my experiences getting the better of me.

I love coaching sport and I love seeing young people get something out of sport. Coaching kids and seeing them enjoy sport have been part of my healing process. It has been a saviour for me and has gotten me back into sport again.

I like the idea of a public apology to victim-survivors. I know other victim-survivors have been encouraging others to come forward and seeking input on the possible wording of an apology and things like that. I think it would be helpful to sit down and discuss with other victim-survivors what the wording should be. I hope that my evidence to the inquiry encourages other victim survivors to come forward and speak the truth about what happened to us.

‘Paula’

'Paula'5

I grew up in the Beaumaris region in the 1960s and 1970s and as a child I was sexually abused by a teacher, ‘Marcus’, at Beaumaris Primary School.

I have happy childhood memories of being free, running around parks and playing lots of sports.

When I was at Beaumaris Primary School, I attended a sports class under the supervision of Marcus. During this class, one of my classmates was injured.

I do not recall why, but after the class, Marcus drove me home. No one else was in the car with us.

During the car trip, Marcus reached over to show me where my classmate had been injured. He touched me on the inside of my upper thigh. I recall brushing his hand away and moving my legs towards the door. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. I recall knowing at that point in time that Marcus had crossed a line.

I remember thinking, broadly around the time of the incident in the car, that Marcus was creepy and always seemed to be around.

I would describe that period of time as one where teachers were treated with respect and my family had high moral standards and good manners. In that context, I do not remember calling Marcus any names. I would have tried to be as polite as possible.

The incident in the car changed my feelings about Marcus as a teacher.

I cannot remember who I told about the incident. I may have mentioned it to my parents as an adult, referring to it as ‘that time in the car with Marcus’.

I do, however, remember that after the incident Marcus approached me at school when I was sitting with friends. He leaned very close to me, pointed his finger at my face, and said words to the effect of ‘don’t you go saying those things and making trouble’. I think that my friends and I giggled nervously, but I remember feeling intimidated.

In the 1990s, I learned that someone else also suffered abuse by another teacher, ‘Nick’, at Beaumaris Primary School. The other person told me that boys from the school had similar experiences involving Nick. I suppose it is a good thing to feel that it wasn’t just them, they weren’t making it up. Conversely, how the hell did they get away with it? How the hell did they intimidate those boys so much to keep quiet? That really was, and still is, mind-numbing.

This other person had lots of friends at school and there was no sense they were reluctant about going to school or leaving school. I am not aware that they had any issues at school.

This other person has not spoken about the abuse in detail, but I am aware of the significant impact the abuse has had on them. The other person has struggled with anxiety for years and has difficulties forming relationships.

I hope that the teachers who perpetrated sexual abuse against children will no longer be held up as pillars of the community or as ‘heroes’.

‘Casey’ and ‘Dennis’

'Casey' and 'Dennis'6

Casey

My brother ‘Fred’ was a terrific athlete and footy player at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1970s. A teacher, ‘Leon’, was heavily involved in footy, both at the Beaumaris Primary School and in the local area. Friends and classmates told me that Fred was one of Leon’s favourites, and Leon behaved differently around him.

At the time, friends of Fred who knew him through footy were shocked by Fred’s knowledge of sex. At that age, it was something they had no understanding of. Our home was a conservative one and Fred’s knowledge of sex was not something he had learned at home.

Fred gave up footy after school. I never understood it; footy had been his life. I think that Fred decided not to pursue a footy career because he no longer felt safe in the sport. I think that Fred turned down a scholarship to an overseas college because he didn’t feel safe because of the abuse he suffered, let alone living away from home.

Fred never told our family about the abuse he suffered. I recall that, in high school, Fred became fixated on death and dying. Around that time, Fred began abusing substances. He had trouble sleeping and had terrible nightmares which kept our whole family up.

In his late teens, Fred attempted suicide. I watched as my brother became unemployed, homeless and engaging in criminal behaviour. Our parents couldn’t handle him anymore and increasingly tried to distance themselves from him, eventually moving interstate and pulling our family apart. I believe that many of these changes were caused by Fred’s experience of child sexual abuse.

I didn’t become aware of the abuse suffered by my brother until recently.

I never spoke to Fred about the abuse he suffered. I think that Fred loved the normality of our relationship and didn’t want it to be affected by the abuse he experienced.

Fred died in the late 1990s. I never had a chance to talk to Fred about his experiences of abuse. At the time, there was no trauma-informed support available to him, which I think could have saved his life. I could only imagine the severe physical, psychological and emotional wounds that the abuse had caused him; wounds which never healed, but only deepened and became more painful over time.

My brother died the most horrendous of deaths. He is the most gifted person I have ever met. It was his character that made him an extraordinary person. He was unbelievably courageous.

Dennis

I considered Fred to be my best friend at Beaumaris Primary School. To this day, I still consider Fred to be my best friend.

Fred and I grew up together during the 1970s. We used to spend time together every day; playing football, tennis, cricket and riding. The area we lived in as children was idyllic.

Like Fred’s other friends from school, I noticed that Fred was much more sexually aware than me from a young age. I didn’t understand at the time why that was.

Fred never told me about Leon, but it became obvious to me that something was wrong because Fred was so knowledgeable about sex.

I saw Fred start drinking from the age of 12 or 13. When he drank, he drank to the point of getting smashed. I never talked to Fred about his drinking when they were kids; I just didn’t feel like I had the capacity to do so. I recall a time when we were 15 or 16. We were going to stay at Fred’s place for the night, but Fred told me that we should instead go to a party. By the time they got to Fred’s place that night, Fred had already drunk half a bottle of scotch. By the time they arrived at the party, I recall Fred had drunk the rest.

Around that same time, I remember that Fred became heavily involved in dark music about death. I watched him change completely. Every time we caught up, Fred was a completely different person. I later found out that Fred had been abusing substances, as well as drinking. The last time I saw Fred before Fred’s death was when we were 18.

Fred was a beautiful kid, who was destroyed by what happened to him. When Fred’s parents told me that Fred had died, I felt responsible. I didn’t know about the child sexual abuse Fred had experienced until recently.

I have heard about experiences of child sexual abuse from so many people I have worked with; people lose their families, their friends, their connections — everything.

I only began to understand more about Fred after learning about the child sexual abuse Fred experienced. Why Fred was so sexually aware from a young age, why he had changed so much through his childhood. I think that Fred didn’t join the junior footy club and development team because the person who abused Fred was also involved with footy.

Fred never got a proper funeral when he died. Many years later, after the abuse he experienced was uncovered, his family and friends held a memorial for him. He was going to be the champion, he was the best, none of these people knew what had happened to him. Then they realised why he went off the rails. People never had the chance to grieve because his parents didn’t want people talking about it. It was a beautiful day, but it was a sad day; with grown men crying.

Everyone loved Fred. He was so talented, bloody smart, nice; he had it all. He was such a good friend.

Grant Holland

I grew up in East Bentleigh and went to school at Ormond East Primary School. These days, it’s called McKinnon Primary School. For most of my time there, I was a bright and very happy kid.

I was in Grade 5 in 1973. There was an imposing sports-master at the school named Grahame Steele. He had an authoritarian voice and manner. He wore a brown leather jacket and drove a brown Valiant Charger. He was a charismatic, suave-looking and sophisticated bloke. Boys were completely obedient to him. Whatever he said, you did.

Mr Steele didn’t abuse me in Grade 5, but he did do some unusual things. When he took us for cricket, he would adjust my protective gear for me. I thought that was weird because I could have done it myself. Sometimes, Mr Steele would take some kids out of class to an oval off the school grounds to set up sports equipment. We felt a bit special when he picked us. Often the sporting events didn’t even take place and there was no equipment to set up.

In 1974, I was in Grade 6 and Mr Steele became my teacher. At some point during the year, Mr Steele took me and three of my school friends to his holiday house in Inverloch in south-eastern Victoria. I don’t remember exactly how long we were there, but it was no more than a week.

Me and the other boys stayed in the lower floor of the holiday house. An older woman was staying in the top floor. I recall Mr Steele saying that it was his mother. Mr Steele introduced her to us, but we never saw much of her after that. No other adults were present.

During the trip, Mr Steele took the four of us down to an abattoir. I had no experience with death at that age. Mr Steele lined us up at a railing, which had a big drain in front of it where the blood from the slaughtered animals flowed past. Mr Steele seemed like he knew some of the workers and spoke to them, while other workers killed animals in front of us. We stood in silence while we watched cows getting slaughtered with a bolt gun, and lambs and sheep being slaughtered with knives in front of us then put onto big hooks. The visions were awful. I thought it was worse than cruel. The implied threat that I understood from Mr Steele taking us to that abattoir was that if we disobeyed him, this would happen to us. It was terrifying and traumatic. I still think about it now. We were all very quiet in the car on the drive back.

The abuse happened at his holiday house, not at school. Mr Steele made us take lots of showers; about three a day. We had to shower after everything we did. Mr Steele would make a point to stand behind me and dry me after I showered. Then he would touch and fondle me, also crouching down in front of me. He would stand closely behind me for extended periods and I could not understand what he was doing. This happened every shower time during that trip. As a child, I had no idea what he was doing because I wasn’t sexually aware, but I knew this stuff was wrong.

I talked to the other boys about the showers. We asked each other why we were showering so often, and whether we dried ourselves at home. We were 11 or 12 years old, old enough to shower and dry ourselves. We also talked about being touched in similar ways by Mr Steele. We couldn’t verbalise what he was doing to us and we weren’t emotionally mature enough to talk about it. I didn’t realise it was abuse until I got older.

I’m sure other teachers at the school knew about, or suspected, Mr Steele’s abuse. I recall a particular teacher who seemed to hate Mr Steele, but I didn’t understand the dynamics or nuance of that relationship as a kid. When Mr Steele took us out of class, that teacher would ask where he was taking us and when we’d be back quite assertively. I don’t know if that teacher knew that Mr Steele was abusing kids, but I think maybe they had a sense and they were trying to be protective.

The abuse was traumatic and affected my life. In high school, I went a bit off the rails. I struggled academically, and I couldn’t settle or study. I left school in Year 11 to become a motor mechanic, but I left that and returned to school. Later, I started working at the Children’s Court as a clerk. There, I heard stories about child abuse which really opened up a world for me. I started to understand that I was not alone and that other people had also gone through similar things that affected them.

In the mid–1980s, I gathered the courage to report the abuse to police and gave a statement. Weeks, then months went by, and I heard nothing. Eventually, I followed up and I was told that they couldn’t find my statement. This made me very distressed. I had tried to disclose and wanted people to listen, but nothing had been done. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t doing this to other children. I only found out recently that Mr Steele remained a primary school principal for almost a decade after that first disclosure.

In the late 1980s, I again went into a police station to report my abuse. Nothing came of this either. No-one followed me up, and I gave up a bit more easily than the first time. I just pushed it down and tried to get on with life.

Then, in the early 2000s, I got a call from a police detective out of the blue, asking me about teachers who taught at Ormond East Primary School, including Mr Steele. I went down to the police station and gave another statement. The police asked me whether I could wear a covert recording device and get Mr Steele to admit that he had abused me. I said yes, in the hope of protecting other kids as I was sure he would still be abusing kids wherever he was. At that time, Mr Steele was living in Inverloch, at the same house I visited when I was a boy, so I had to go back there to meet him.

I had to drive from Melbourne to Inverloch police station, and the police fitted a recording device onto me. They didn’t prepare me well at all. I then had to follow the police in my own car to Mr Steele’s house, the house that I was abused in. I saw Mr Steele mowing the lawns. I got out and asked Mr Steele if he remembered me and said, ‘I want to talk to you about what you did’. He told me to come inside. I felt like I was 11 or 12 again. I was shaking, afraid he was going to hurt me. Inside, after sitting at a table and after some initial discussions, he pulled out a photo album from a bookcase lined with many photo albums and pointed at a photo of a student and said nothing. It wasn’t me, but it was a boy I recognised from Ormond East Primary School. I knew his name. I believe that the photos in the album were ‘trophies’ of students he had abused. I told him the photo was not me but a boy who looked similar.

When I asked him about the showers, the drying, touching and fondling, he quickly explained it away saying that he was checking if a skin condition I had at the time was okay. The police never told me how to get Mr Steele to admit that he abused me. I told him how much the abuse had impacted my life, then left. I was psychologically stuffed after that meeting.

I have been on an individual healing journey since then. In my 20s, I suffered from poor mental health and had suicidal thoughts. But when I got married and had kids, my family became a source of strength and a focus for me. That came with its own difficulties. My experience of abuse made me a paranoid and hypervigilant parent. My children are now getting older and have partners, and they will symbolically move away. It worries me how I will handle that. I know that what will ultimately release me is forgiveness — I’ve been trying so hard to find how to find forgiveness. I want to be able to forgive but I am still finding the tools to do that.

At this Board of Inquiry, I was asked if an apology from the Education Department and the police would help my healing process. At the time of this question, I had never reflected on this as a matter that could help my healing. Subsequently, after this process and some media about my matter, I have had time to reflect upon this.

I am fully aware why agencies such as these cannot not say sorry due to the legal implications of doing so. However, after my disclosures became public, I actually wanted someone from the Education Department and the police to contact me and say, this must have been a terrible time for you, we are sorry, and we have improved in many areas to make sure this never happens again to little kids. Of course, they have not done this, and I am left with the feeling that they did not listen or care then, and they are not listening or do not care now. No one called.

The processes, people and sensitivity of this inquiry have been exceptionally well planned and executed and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be finally heard. It has helped me head towards a path of more peace with myself and those around me.

‘Samuel’

'Samuel'7

I moved to Beaumaris in the early 1970s. I started at Beaumaris Primary School halfway through primary school, and stayed there until I graduated. Because I had moved schools, I had to find my feet and establish a new network of friends at Beaumaris Primary School. But soon enough, I sort of just fitted in.

When I was in Grade 5, the kids at Beaumaris Primary School could apply to go on a school camp. It would be my first camp with the school.

The convener of the camp at Beaumaris Primary School was a teacher who I will refer to as ‘Lachlan’. I hadn’t had much to do with him up to that point. We were asked to submit a written application to Lachlan about why we should be chosen to go on the camp. My attitude was ‘if there is a camp going on, I’ll put my name in and see what happens’. I had a go and somehow got selected. In the end, there were six to eight kids from Beaumaris Primary School who went on the camp, along with lots of kids from other schools all around Melbourne.

The camp was in south-eastern Victoria and went for just over a week. We slept on bunk beds in a series of cabins. Staff stayed in cabins intermingled between the kids’ cabins. There was a mess hall in the middle of the camp. The camp staff ran activities, like kayaking and orienteering. Lachlan was the only teacher from Beaumaris Primary School who was at the camp.

There was a parent visit halfway through the camp. My parents came down and stayed the whole day. That afternoon, after my parents left, Lachlan came up to me and said he needed to do a welfare check and make sure I was going okay. He asked if I could come with him and answer some questions. Naively, I did.

Lachlan took me to his cabin. He had a sheet of questions. I sat down on a bed in the middle of the room, which was pretty much the only place to sit. He came and sat next to me. Before long, he started stroking my arm. I froze on the spot and wondered what was going on. I didn’t quite know how to react or what to do. Eventually, he put his hand down my pants. That went on for some time. The memories of the abuse are really, really vivid for me.

I remember entering Lachlan’s room in the afternoon, and getting away from that situation when the bell rang for dinnertime. I also remember my internal dialogue at the time. I couldn’t tell anyone because I’d be embarrassed and humiliated. I thought they would laugh at me, and ask why I didn’t fight back; why I just sat there, why I didn’t do anything.

From that day on, I avoided Lachlan at all costs. I remember begging another staff member at Beaumaris Primary School who I will refer to as ‘Noah’ not to put me in the sports team that Lachlan coached. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that Noah was also abusing kids.

For years I preferred to keep my memories of the abuse locked up. The feelings of embarrassment and humiliation lingered. But, I figured, as long as I didn’t say anything and no one found out, I was safe. I was easily embarrassed as a kid, and I’ve struggled with judgement all my life.

I didn’t disclose my abuse to anyone until five decades later. A few years ago, I read an article about a kid I knew, who went to Beaumaris Primary School around the same time I did. The article was his own story of abuse, not by Lachlan but by Noah. I got emotional reading that article. My partner asked me what was wrong. I said that something similar had happened to me and told her everything. It was a pretty raw day. I emailed the journalist who had written the article and told him that I had a similar experience at Beaumaris Primary School with Lachlan. He replied saying he had received lots of information about Lachlan. I was shocked. For 50 years, I thought I was the only one who Lachlan had abused.

The impacts of the abuse have affected both the personal and professional parts of my life. My family and friends have been a great support for me since I disclosed my abuse to them. The people I told were prepared to help me carry the burden. But I was worried that my experience of abuse might make me more predisposed to harming kids. I didn’t have my own children for that reason; I couldn’t bear the thought of it. But over time I realised that wasn’t who I was. Circumstances eventually led me to teach and I’ve now been a teacher for over 30 years.

It has been difficult to work in the school system, while continuing to learn about the abuse and issues at Beaumaris Primary School from media and other victim-survivors. When I go to work, the number one priority is to protect children in my care, but no one was there to protect us. Even though it is not the same people running the Education Department now, in my mind they are still protecting and hiding information about the abuse that occurred in the 1970s. They are failing to meet the very values and standards they put out and expect teachers like me to meet. I have heard that alleged perpetrators used to be moved to different places in the school system, including to regional offices. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone in the regional offices about it because I didn’t know who I could trust. I made many attempts to communicate with the Education Minister and the Education Department head office.

The guilt I have about not disclosing my abuse earlier is overwhelming. I can’t get past the fact that if one person spoke up a lot of this might have been avoided: and that one person might have been me. Speaking about and fighting child sexual abuse in schools is the least I can do. I had attempted to contact the government and Education Department several times. I naively thought we could sit down and have an adult conversation about what was known and try to get an outcome. Almost every time, they would refuse to talk to me or not reply at all. I felt completely shut down.

On a couple of occasions, however, I was able to meet with politicians and with a senior representative of the Education Department who did listen to me attentively and with compassion.

Eventually, there was a response from the Education Department (in relation to a question about an apology), which described what happened to me as an ‘isolated incident’. I’m sure what I went through wasn’t isolated. I believe at least 50 other kids, maybe 100, were sexually abused during the 1960s and 70s at Beaumaris Primary School.

I ultimately got an apology from the Secretary of the Education Department, albeit one which was addressed to my lawyer. However, I don’t think an apology for what happened at Beaumaris Primary School is enough — the Education Department should apologise to all victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in Victorian schools. The Education Department needs to clear the decks and put everything on the table. The apology needs to be based in remorse, not just because they have been ‘caught out’. For some, I know an apology won’t change anything. But I’m hopeful that it gives us somewhere to hang our burden. For me, at least, I think an apology would provide a sense of finality.

I also like the idea of the Education Department putting up a memorial to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse. I would like to see a garden or a reflective place at Beaumaris Primary School, and a broader memorial for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in Victorian schools somewhere else, perhaps similar to the police memorial at Kings Domain. I think that would be really powerful.

‘Tobias’

'Tobias'8

I grew up in regional Victoria in the 1970s. I went to school at the local government primary school.

One of the teachers I had towards the end of primary school was ‘Theo’. He was also acting principal at that school for a while. Theo had a bit of a reputation of being creepy and weird. I recall two incidents involving other children which stick out in my mind. In one, after a boy was hit by a cricket ball in his crotch, Theo responded by touching the boy’s testicles and asking if he was okay. In the other, Theo turned up to school with a black eye, which I suspect was caused by the parent of a particular student.

I recall that Theo pretended to be a very moralistic person who was concerned about children, but I think this was a veneer. I remember that he seemed ‘affronted’ by any immoral student behaviour, pretending to be angry and raising his voice. He would threaten to resort to the extreme of corporal punishment, which was being phased out at that time.

We were a small community where volunteering made the place tick. Theo seemed to spend all his time in the community with children. We were kids at the time; getting any adult attention was only seen as a good thing. Looking back, I feel that he was moving beyond the gamut of what our community expected from a teacher who did a healthy amount of community volunteering.

I was a very sensitive child with a good moral sense. In Grade 5 or 6, I think Theo saw me as an easy target and started grooming me. He targeted me through sports; coaching me, and inviting me out to play sports with him and his friends. At that time, I thought he was an adult I could trust.

The grooming escalated to abuse on a primary school camp. While I was showering, Theo saw me naked with a part erection. He imposed himself into my shower cubicle staring at me and preventing me from drying myself. It sent a message to me that I should be ashamed of my erection. Questioning an adult’s behaviour was not tolerated in the late 1970s.

In my second year of high school I suffered near blanket exclusion bullying, which in retrospect I feel would have been totally obvious to all teaching staff supervising me. I did not feel I could approach my parents to discuss the emotional toll being inflicted upon me. Instead, I went to someone I considered was a ‘trusted adult’ in Theo. However, part of his ‘care’ was exploiting my emerging sexuality. Theo sexually abused me by touching me. This was a massive abuse of trust, and at the worst time I could ever imagine, exacerbating my troubles. The ‘lesson’ I learned from this was acknowledging my sexuality would lead to trouble.

I recall that not long after, Theo suddenly left the school area. I am not sure whether the Department of Education moved him, or whether he asked for a school transfer and moved of his own accord.

In that era, boys were not supposed to cry or admit to any form of homosexual activity. Homosexuality was weaponised by kids and there was shame associated with it. This basically stopped boys from disclosing sexual abuse they had suffered at the hands of men. Sexual matters were generally taboo and weren’t talked about at home.

At age 18, I had a bout of major depression, which has never eased off since. I think that the sexual abuse most certainly contributed to the initial onset of this condition, but there were several other factors.

Around 10 years after I was sexually abused, in my early 20s, I reported what Theo did to me to the police. I decided to go to the police because he was still a teacher and still around children. The police officer I spoke to was uncompromisingly tough and questioned me well beyond the point of tears, I think to make sure I wasn’t lying. This was a time before any sensitivity was given to victim-survivors. It was a dreadful and very bruising experience for me. If I hadn’t had the nous to see what they were trying to do, it would have been totally humiliating.

I asked my psychiatrist at the time to be referred to a forensic psychiatrist. I saw the forensic psychiatrist about the sexual abuse I experienced as a child and explained to them a plan I had devised. My plan was that in exchange for me not pushing for prosecution at every opportunity, Theo was to agree to see that forensic psychiatrist on a regular basis until his likelihood of reoffending was minimised; I just wanted to stop Theo from offending again. The forensic psychiatrist agreed to see Theo, and to report to me on his progress. At the initial consultation between myself, Theo and the forensic psychiatrist, Theo remarked that he had been abused as child. The psychiatrist asked me to explain my mental illness and confronted Theo with the consequences of his abuse.

Theo told us that he knew he had a problem around children and that that was why he had moved to an administrative job in education away from children. Theo agreed to speak to the forensic psychiatrist and to attend sessions until the forensic psychiatrist thought he was ‘reformed’. It felt liberating to be on the front foot taking on the role of a strong adult, and Theo being the diminished person with a big problem. Facades aside, this process was very taxing. Theo wasn’t going to find a facilitator to help me deal with my accumulated hurt.

The forensic psychiatrist saw Theo for sessions for two years. I think they did everything humanly possible to reform Theo. Ultimately, these efforts failed as I am aware Theo continued to offend.

Some years later, I became aware of criminal proceedings against Theo. I went to the police again to provide another statement about the sexual abuse I had experienced. I had a severe episode of mental ill-health immediately after making the statement and I was unable to continue to pursue the matter.

I count myself as relatively lucky — I dealt with the abuse I suffered head on at a younger age, which saved myself a lot of torment and grief. I think it would be helpful for the healing of me and other victim-survivors in this Inquiry to meet.

The Department of Education owes children a duty of care. Children have the right to feel safe at school. I do not want what happened to me and to my classmates to happen again to another child.

I respect that apologies are important to some victim-survivors. Personally, I think it is more important for the Department to focus on taking child sexual abuse in schools seriously and do their utmost to try and deal with it in an ongoing way. I feel that Theo was a ‘rotten egg’ and the Department appeared to have got used to wearing a ‘clothes peg’ on its nose. Otherwise, the Department may have neutralised this stench and addressed it sooner. I would also like some personal and group acknowledgement of this.

‘Wilbur’

'Wilbur'9

I attended Beaumaris Primary School after I moved to Melbourne in the mid-1970s. I remember being a shy and quiet student at the time. It was a new school and I found myself trying to make friends.

‘Dane’ was one of the teachers at Beaumaris Primary School. I didn’t have many friends at school and I was drawn to Dane because he liked me. I felt comfortable with him.

I recall that Dane began grooming me during the first half of Grade 4. Dane gave me extra duties during his lessons. I remember feeling happy and proud that I had responsibilities and I fitted in. Dane would also occasionally brush past me or rub my shoulder. At other times, he would hug me when he sat beside me or kiss me on the cheek.

The sexual abuse by Dane progressed very slowly. I did not realise that Dane’s behaviour was not right. Dane began touching me on my knee or leg and later sexually abused me by touching me [We note Wilbur uses the term ‘fondling’]. The abuse occurred in a part of the school where other people would have been able to see Dane, but would not have been able to see what he was doing.

Towards the end of Grade 4, Dane began to digitally rape me. That was when I first realised that Dane’s behaviour was wrong. Eventually, Dane took me to a storeroom and raped me. I pushed Dane away and the abuse pretty much stopped after that point.

I question whether the teachers knew things were going on and whether there was an acceptance of what was occurring.

I never told anyone at the time about the abuse. I never told my parents or my friends. I never thought anyone would believe me. I thought I was the only one.

The abuse I experienced has really impacted my family and my life. When I was in primary school, there were times I was constantly wetting the bed. I have experienced a lot of guilt and shame as a result of the abuse, particularly about why I did not realise what was going on. I now understand why. I am hypervigilant and hypersexual. For a long time, I had wondered why I felt something was not right with my life.

I have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts. Some days, I can’t get out of bed. I had my first break down in my late 30s and have spent time in hospital. Unfortunately, there are not many facilities in Australia where people can get help for complex post-traumatic stress disorder. The first psychiatrist I saw said they could not help me because they were not a specialist in post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since then, life has been very difficult financially and emotionally. I consider that mental trauma is a hidden disability. From the outside, I look fine; I am able to be articulate. But I have lost everything — I lost my career, my financial support, I had to retire early, I am on multiple medicines.

Recently, I have been seeing a psychiatrist who has been helpful. Previously, a lot of my past abuse was locked away and I could not open it up. I was having nightly tremors and nightmares, and during the day I was having flashbacks. I have now started to relive some of my memories and I have medication that helps me. Talking about the abuse I experienced has also helped me.

I now also see a female psychologist. There is nothing that I have not told her and a lot of what I have told her is very confronting. I am conservative and old fashioned, and it is difficult to say some things in front of a lady. Having said that, I do not like men, especially overpowering men.

I recently made a statement to the police about the abuse I experienced. It was difficult, but brought into reality what happened to me and made it a bit easier. I found the police to be incredibly supportive. I now understand that I was not the only one, but one of many, who were abused.

I consider it is critical for the government to make a formal apology to those of us who experienced child sexual abuse. An apology will give a voice to those that do not have one and is important to how survivors see themselves. I think that any apology should come after the Board of Inquiry as an apology does not make sense until we know the full details of what happened.

I would also like to see a memorial that recognises the suffering of those who experienced child sexual abuse. It would give closure, not only for us, but also for Beaumaris Primary School. I am concerned about the impact this has had on the school and the children who are there now.

I am still trying to come to terms with it all. I was raped. I know that the criminal system can only deal with his actions based on the law in the 1970s; but if Dane was to do what he did to me now, he would be held more to account. This is the saddest thing. He and these men have gotten away with so much. We are left to try and live a life that has purpose and meaning. We are left to deal with the huge fallout.

Hopefully, one day I will get the opportunity to live a more fulfilled and happy life.

‘Riley’

'Riley' 10

My husband, ‘Clive’, was a student at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1970s. Clive was abused by ‘Seth’, a teacher at Beaumaris Primary School.

Clive told me about the sexual abuse he experienced many years into our marriage. A few years ago, when Clive said he needed help to address the trauma of his experiences, I felt a sense of relief. Before then, things had been bad and I did not know what was wrong. When Clive first told me he needed help, I had the attitude of: ‘ok, you’ve laid the cards on the table, let’s deal with this’. I have supported Clive all my life and this was another part of life where I could support him.

It was very difficult dropping Clive off at a mental health facility, but I felt a sense of relief. I visited him a few times during his stay, but I think I needed some respite during that time as well.

The last few years have been really difficult. My priority is Clive and supporting him, but it has had an impact on us financially. I had to take leave from work to support Clive because it was getting to be too much for me to work and help support him. I feel that my work did not support me when I made this decision. Maybe if I was the victim-survivor, I would have received more support and empathy.

I worry about the future, both financially and in terms of Clive’s mental health, and whether we will be able to travel like we have planned. We accessed the government reimbursement program for Clive’s medical costs, but the program is very slow at paying. We have paid a significant amount that we are waiting to have paid back and we are spending a lot of money on Clive’s medical costs. We can still pay those medical costs at the moment, but it is a struggle. I can see that the costs would be prohibitive for other people.

I have often been told I need to seek help as well. I am good at supporting someone else, but I suppose I am not very good at opening up myself about how everything is affecting me. I got a lot of joy from working, but my experiences over the last few years have tarnished my ability to work.

I often reflect on how cruel people could do what they did, how they could get away with it and how many lives they have ruined.

After I took leave from work, I told my GP that I was feeling anxious about returning to work and that I needed help. They gave me the number of a psychologist who then had to refer me to someone else because they were not available. I was told a session would be $250 and I would get back $100. I made the appointment but cancelled it two weeks beforehand. I felt I could not justify the cost of the sessions.

Clive and I have adult children who have also been affected by the abuse that Clive experienced. It was hard for them hearing about Clive’s experiences, how those experiences shaped his life and that their dad was entering a mental health facility. They are great kids, but it has been difficult.

It has been a brighter time recently, with the Board of Inquiry. I feel like we are receiving more empathy. I am grateful for this process and that it has come this far.

For me and my family now, I just hope that we can move onward and upward, continue using the services that we’ve found and plan things that make us feel good.

‘Earl’

'Earl' 11

I started attending Beaumaris Primary School in the late 1960s and was there for all of my primary schooling, until the early 1970s.

I had a very secure family life with my parents and sibling. I was an average student but I was really into sport and I loved going to school. I liked most of the teachers and I would have said I was a happy pupil.

In the last term of Grade 5, I was bailed up by a male teacher, ‘Baxter’. He came up beside me in a narrow space inside a school building and started whispering in my ear while he put his hand down the front of my pants and into my underpants. I froze while he touched my genitals for 2 or 3 minutes. It was a very isolated spot where he couldn’t be seen by anyone else and I could not get away.

The school year ended not long after, but the school holidays were different for me that year. It was terrible because I knew I would have to go back to school at the end of the holidays and I was worried Baxter would sexually abuse me again. It was the worst school break I had. The closer it got to going back to school the edgier I got. It was hard to explain my behaviour because I hadn’t told anyone about the abuse.

Grade 6 was really hard. There was another incident where Baxter sexually abused me in a similar way to what had happened in Grade 5. He cornered me and put his hands up the leg of my shorts and touched my testicles. I think it went for a couple of minutes. Again, I completely froze while it was happening.

There were other incidents where Baxter would come over while I was sitting with other kids at a table and lean over to rub across my shoulder or the back of my head. He would also reach over under the table and touch me. It wasn’t just me this abuse was happening to, but I felt very alone.

There were two occasions where I was sent to see Baxter, but because there was nobody else around, I just walked out of school and went home rather than be alone with him. I got in all sorts of trouble with the Principal. My parents were shocked and didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t tell them why I left the school grounds.

Baxter was also heavily involved in sport outside of school so I had to interact with him in that context as well. Kids would fight to avoid being alone with him and I recall it was often the weaker kids that ended up being most exposed to him.

My dad was also involved in sport so that gave me some protection because he was around a bit. One day, however, I had to get a lift home in Baxter’s car. He drove past my street to drop other kids off, then when it was just me and him in the car, he parked the car and started sexually abusing me by touching me. When he started to undo his trousers, I got out of the car and ran all the way home. Baxter came by my house a few minutes later with the bag I had left in his car and I had to listen to him chatting to my dad after he had abused me.

I was also abused by another teacher, who I will refer to as ‘Jonah’, towards the end of Grade 5, after I was injured playing sport. Jonah took me to the sick bay where he sexually abused me by touching me while I was in a lot of pain.

I feel like the abuse took away my capacity to learn and thrive and be something in this world. After primary school, I completely lost the capacity to concentrate in class and quickly fell behind. All of a sudden, I felt like schooling wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to learn, I was just there to have a good time. It was terrible. I would have flashbacks to the sexual abuse in primary school. I felt like I was the only one that this had happened to and was really down on myself about it. My behaviour went off the rails too and it all continued when I moved to a different school. I remember that by the time I got to late secondary school, I was pretty much asked to leave because I wasn’t learning.

I didn’t tell anyone what happened to me at Beaumaris Primary School for a long time. I kept it to myself for nearly 50 years and I really struggle to tell people about my experiences. I’ve never really had any formal psychologist or counselling sessions where I’ve discussed the abuse.

I never told my parents, either at the time or later on. I was too scared to tell them. The hardest thing for me now is that I’d like to explain to my parents what happened to me and the impact it had on me. That’s not possible now and it hurts.

I’ve recently tried to talk to my family about the abuse. My wife has been very supportive but I haven’t told her everything that happened. I know it hurts her and I don’t want to hurt or upset her. My children are adults now and I’ve tried to tell them what happened, but I don’t think they fully comprehend. I’ve been very protective of my kids. I would always attend any events in their personal lives. I wanted to make sure they were safe and ok.

I’ve also recently been talking to psychologists about what happened. I hate counselling sessions. I don’t like telling my story, especially to people I don’t know and, in some cases, it has felt like the person I was talking to has made it hard for me and hasn’t been on my side. In situations where I have had to start with someone new, it has hit me really hard having to go through my whole story again.

I’ve also been catching up with old school friends. I get support from them and it has made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Some of them are worse off than me and sometimes I feel like I’ve escaped some of the really nasty stuff that has affected them. There’s a support network with other victim-survivors that has been really great.

Aside from taking away my capacity to learn, I think my experiences of abuse have also made me more reserved. It is hard for me to show emotions sometimes. When I was a kid, I was really affectionate. Now, I find it difficult to tell my children that I love them, which I feel like I should be able to do. Instead, I show my children I love them by the things I do.

I feel like the sexual abuse I experienced also meant that I wasted opportunities when I was younger. For about ten years after I left school, I didn’t go to university or pursue meaningful employment. I felt like I’d let my family down because I had lost the capacity to learn.

I’ve also been a functioning alcoholic for over 40 years. I used alcohol as a mask to hide the pain.

I don’t like seeing ribbons tied onto school gates to recognise child sexual abuse. It makes me think about how there are students at those schools now and I feel that they don’t need to know or understand anything about child sexual abuse.

I think feeling like I am being taken seriously has been really helpful recently. The Board of Inquiry gives us worth and makes us feel like we’re good people who just happen to be in an unfortunate situation.

It would also be good to get full recognition and an apology from the State to show that they know things aren’t right. I feel that a public apology from the State would really help.

After all this, I’m just going to move on with the next part of my life and be as happy as I can.

‘Linus’

'Linus'12

I attended a Victorian government primary school relevant to the Board of Inquiry (which was not Beaumaris Primary School) in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. I really enjoyed school.

When I was less than 10 years old, my classroom teacher was ‘Otis’. I remember that one day ‘Otis’ came up behind me and sexually abused me. I recall the abuse occurred in a similar way several times that year. It felt very bizarre and unsettling. I never knew when he would approach me, but I would just feel him there and the contact that he made with me. Since then, I have wondered how others did not see the abuse at the time.

The sexual abuse I recall really affected me. I did not know how to cope with the experience and I would dissociate often. I had no capacity to understand the abuse or process it emotionally.

The abuse I experienced caused strong feelings of anxiety and fear, but I also had feelings of excitement that came from being touched, which were very hard to process. I remember the sexual abuse like a dark cloud that entered my life at that time and disturbed my world view. It affected my perception of what was normal and what was not. I became distrustful of other people, not knowing my place or how I could relate to them.

After the abuse, my behaviour started changing. My attention to school deteriorated and I became a lot more disruptive in class. I began to steal from my family. I feel the abuse pushed me to a point where I did not feel secure or have much capacity for control, particularly in relation to my emotions.

I experienced some mental ill-health and substance abuse issues during high school and afterwards. The first time I disclosed the sexual abuse was during my stay in a psychiatric hospital, but I feel that they did not listen to me because of my mental ill-health. After this, I developed a distrust of other people and professional help.

I do not think that our mental health system is particularly trauma-informed or understanding of people who have been sexually abused. Building a better understanding of what it feels like to be a victim-survivor of sexual abuse would make a lot of difference. In the future, I would like to see more trauma-informed practice, such as more recognition of people with experience of child sexual abuse so that we can make people feel better about who they are and what they have achieved despite the obstacles. It is about dignity.

I am also supportive of a peer support approach, such as victim-survivor led spaces in communities that sit outside of mainstream mental health services but provide an option for people to be able to talk about their experiences together. Having the support of other people going through something similar is empowering. These spaces are also important to allow people to feel heard and connect with other people. It would be great for the government to look at funding these sorts of programs.

I think scholarships for victim-survivors of child sexual abuse could also be helpful for healing. It would be really interesting for victim-survivors to be able to be researchers and develop lived experience research on the experience of being a victim-survivor. People who have had that firsthand experience can see the world and communicate with other victim-survivors in different ways and their perspective and focus may be different to other researchers.

I also feel a public apology could be very healing for people to have, as it makes it feel like their experiences are real. It puts on the record that the child sexual abuse did happen, and it harmed people. I am angry, and I am sure there are many people living with the impact of child sexual abuse whose lives were drastically altered and shortened. I think that not saying sorry fails to give weight to what happened and to the harm that was caused.

It is really important that we have justice and help people to realise they were not the problem, it was what happened to them that is the problem. This justice requires some kind of change and a recognition of the wrongdoing and the harm it caused. We need to be able to talk about these things in a place of safety, without there being further harm, and make sure things like this do not happen again.

‘Cecil’

'Cecil'13

I had what I think was a normal early childhood. I moved to Melbourne in the early 1970s. For some of my childhood, I attended Ormond East Primary School.

I have very good, concise memories of primary school. I have memories of being bullied at school. I remember sport was a big part of school — you were playing sport, generally footy and cricket, Fridays and Saturdays. I was not, and am still not, interested in sport.

During my time at Ormond East Primary School in the mid-1970s, I went to a school camp a few hours away. I was about 10 years old at the time.

On one day of the camp, I remember showering at the end of the day in the shower room with other students. A teacher, ‘Alfred’, was in the shower room supervising boys showering and dressing. I was drying myself when Alfred came up to me and ‘helped’ me, and a number of other boys, dry ourselves. Alfred was overly focussed on assisting me to dry and rubbed my penis and genital area in a way which was overzealous and unnecessary. The unusual nature of Alfred’s assistance was evident to me and several of my friends in the shower room at the time. We discussed it later and agreed it was unusual. Another student came up to me and asked: ‘Did [Alfred] dry you? It was a bit bizarre, a bit weird’. I do not recall the exact words I used but I said something along the lines of: ‘Yeah that was a bit bizarre’. This was the only time I experienced sexual abuse by Alfred.

Whilst at the time I thought the behaviour of Alfred was odd, I did not identify it as sexual abuse. I really did not know what sex was, let alone sexual abuse. I did not tell my parents about the abuse. I grew up in a time where children did not really have rights; they were to be seen and not heard and expected to do as they were told.

I personally consider that the sexual abuse I experienced was minor and there have been no lasting effects. I have not felt the need to seek out support services.

In terms of healing, a public apology from the State might be important to some people, but not me. The same goes for a public memorial; it would not mean much to me but if it means something to other people then it should happen. I would never say do not do it.

I think the focus moving forward should be about policy changes to stop this happening again.

There should also be a focus on ensuring a cultural shift to recognising and advancing the rights of children.

Chapter 9 Endnotes

  1. The names ‘Hank’, ‘Tony’ and ‘Avery’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 15 November 2023.
  2. The names ‘Christie’ and ‘Cody’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 17 November 2023.
  3. The names ‘Wayne’ and ‘Reuben’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 23 October 2023; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.
  4. The name ‘Bernard’ is a pseudonym; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 24 October 2023.
  5. The names ‘Paula’, ‘Marcus’ and ‘Nick’ and pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 24 October 2023.
  6. The names ‘Casey’, ‘Fred’, ‘Leon’ and ‘Dennis’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 24 October 2023.
  7. The names ‘Samuel’, ‘Lachlan’ and ‘Noah’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 15 November 2023.
  8. The names ‘Tobias’ and ‘Theo’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.
  9. The names ‘Wilbur’ and ‘Dane’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.
  10. The names ‘Riley’, ‘Clive’ and ‘Seth’ and pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.
  11. The names ‘Earl’, ‘Baxter’ and ‘Jonah’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.
  12. The names ‘Linus’ and ‘Otis’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.
  13. The names ‘Cecil’ and ‘Alfred’ are pseudonyms; Order of the Board of Inquiry, Restricted Publication Order, 31 January 2024.