Tasmania abuse survivor 'beaten by system'

·3-min read

A male teacher accused of abusing girls in Tasmania was subsequently moved to a different school while one of his alleged student victims was asked to demonstrate what had happened, an inquiry has been told.

The commission of inquiry is holding six weeks of public hearings as part of its investigation into state government responses to child sexual abuse allegations in the public service.

On Monday, it heard from a survivor who in the late 1980s aged 11 told a school counsellor about being abused over two years by a teacher.

Several of her primary school classmates also came forward.

The woman said she was called to the principal's office and asked to sit on the female assistant principal's knee and "demonstrate" what position she was in during the abuse.

"Not only was I not being believed, I had to actually show them," the woman said.

"There was no one else there either. It was just the two of them. I didn't know if I was in trouble. I didn't know if my parents had been told."

She indicated although her parents believed her, many staff at the school did not and her statement to police went nowhere.

The teacher was moved to another school after her dad went to speak to him.

Decades later the woman, and several others, made a police complaint against the teacher which resulted in criminal charges and preparation for a Supreme Court trial.

She said, without warning, a public prosecutor then called her to say the director of public prosecution had withdrawn from the case.

The woman said she contacted the Teachers Registration Board but wasn't prepared to appear face-to-face with her alleged abuser as part of a "good character" assessment.

"I was just exhausted. I had been beaten by the system," she said.

In 2018, she received a call out of the blue from police saying the case had been reopened after a disclosure during the child abuse royal commission.

But it didn't progress. The woman said she was told at the time the teacher was "on suspension".

An investigation into Tasmania's education system, partially released in November before the inquiry began, found complaints by students in the 1970s, '80s and '90s were routinely deflected or ignored.

Co-author and law professor Tim McCormack told the inquiry he was "deeply concerned" about a lack of state education department record keeping.

"The department of education ... couldn't tell us basic information about the time between when the alleged incident occurred and when it was reported," he said.

Counsel assisting the commission, Elizabeth Bennett SC, said education department secretary Tim Bullard would give evidence later this week.

"He accepts there have been delays in investigations, some of which have not been carried out in accordance with best practice," she said.

The inquiry is expected to deliver a final report by May 2023.

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