'I began to despise teachers' victim tells abuse probe

As a young boy, Hank had the world at his feet as a gifted athlete with a potential future at the highest level of elite sports.

But everything changed for the nine-year-old at Melbourne's Beaumaris Primary School when he was sexually abused by a teacher, Tony, in the mid 1970s.

It wasn't the first time Tony had abused the grade four student but during the school photo day, things escalated when the teacher abused him in a public setting as he was getting changed into his sports gear.

"During primary school, I began to despise teachers and other authority figures like him," Hank said in a statement read out on Wednesday to an inquiry into historic offending at Victorian government primary schools.

From then on, Tony's involvement in sports at school and in the community ruined Hank's experience of his childhood.

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

Another victim-survivor Grant recalled how a Beaumaris teacher abused him and other students multiple times after he had showered at his holiday house.

The teacher had taken the boys to an abattoir where they witnessed cows, lambs and sheep getting slaughtered.

"It was an implied threat that ... if we disobeyed him, this would happen to us," Grant said in a statement.

Hank's and other stories of children being sexually abused by teachers and the teachers who turned a blind eye continue to be aired at the hearing which is focusing on accountability.

The independent board of inquiry is examining abuse at Beaumaris primary and 22 other schools in the 1960s, up until 1999, where at least 44 children were abused.

The four teachers under scrutiny had transferred between schools in Melbourne's southwest as the abuse occurred.

Hank recounted how another teacher had turned a blind eye to what had happened to him, which led him to keep his abuse quiet.

Kathleen Foley
Kathleen Foley is leading the inquiry into historic child abuse at Victorian schools.

Victim-survivor Bernard said students at Beaumaris who got in trouble and were sent to the principal's office would use exposing sexual abuse by a teacher as a way of getting out of trouble.

"Bernard understood that at least some staff at Beaumaris knew what was happening and apparently did nothing," counsel assisting Fiona Ryan said.

She pointed to the 1882 Royal Commission into public instruction which revealed the department was aware of the risk teachers might behave immorally towards students and needed to be managed.

The Deputy Secretary of Victoria's Education Department David Howes told the inquiry that during the period being examined, there were no departmental policies or procedures to handle teachers who had abused students.

"Transferring teachers (to another school) was one of the outcomes that could happen from a disciplinary process," Dr Howes said.

"That was not only acceptable, but affirmed as one outcome."

District inspectors whose responsibilities were investigating issues referred to by school principals had not factored in how an allegation of child sex abuse should be handled, Dr Howes said.

There were no records of child sex abuse in government schools and there were no instructions for teachers to recognise and report instances of child sexual abuse.

"There was no supportive environment to report let alone the direction to report as there should have been," he said.

Dr Howes agreed with the counsel assisting's characterisation that the department had been more concerned about the reputation and wellbeing of teachers than the students.

He also conceded it had been reactive instead of proactive in terms of the allegations which led to "immeasurable harm".

"It's a failure from lack of policies and procedures through to the absolute lack of any meaningful action taken by anyone in a position of power."

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