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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Silence over paedophile teacher case

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Chris Dobney

Tweed MP Geoff Provest has confirmed he recently raised the issue of an alleged paedophile teacher with the state’s education minister after a meeting with the woman who was instrumental in having the alleged offender removed.

But the department has refused to comment on the case.

The man taught for 18 years in three of the shire’s primary schools – East Murwillumbah Special Education Unit, and South Tweed and Centaur primary schools – from the late 1980s up until 2006, when he was finally banned from working in NSW schools.

A spokesperson for Mr Provest told Echonetdaily he had been approached by one of his constituents, Fiona Barnett from Banora Point, who had compiled a comprehensive dossier on the teacher. The spokesperson said Mr Provest had since raised the matter with the education minister.

As the matter has since been referred to the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, the spokesperson said it would be inappropriate for her to comment further.

The dossier alleges a systematic bullying and beating of boys and intimidation and sexual abuse of girls at the three schools, as well as a series of institutional cover-ups over almost two decades.

This allegedly included senior staff at all three schools ignoring complaints and a whistleblower at one school being bullied by a senior staff member to the point of a nervous breakdown.

Pressed for a comment by Echonetdaily, the NSW Education Department would say only that ‘the department does not tolerate sexual misconduct by teachers and any sexual misconduct that could be a criminal offence is reported to police’.

‘The department’s investigations of sexual misconduct by teachers are oversighted [sic] and reviewed by the NSW Ombudsman.

‘The Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate investigates allegations of sexual misconduct towards students by staff and liaises with the police.

‘It would not be appropriate for the department to publicly comment on individual cases,’ a department spokesperson told Echonetdaily.

Ms Barnett has since taken the 27-page dossier to the Royal Commission, which has been holding closed sittings in Brisbane.

It included signed witness statements from teachers, students and parents from all three schools.

Local media yesterday revealed the man had until this week been working in a casual capacity for the Queensland education department.

Litany of abuse

The allegations, published in APN Media and elsewhere, include that the man insisted on toileting disabled girl students by himself despite the availability of female teaching aides; sexually assaulted at least two disabled students as identified by DOCS; coached mainstream schoolboys how to sexually assault disabled girls; was caught naked with a disabled female student on an excursion; and ‘grinned’ as he exposed his penis to parents and students during another excursion.

Further allegations contained in the dossier suggest that the teacher physically assaulted boys, including ramming a wheelchair-bound child into a wall and thrusting another disabled boy’s head into a sink.

After multiple abuse complaints at the Special School, NSW education department staff investigated the teacher but, according to the dossier, the investigating officers did not speak to any parents or staff witnesses.

The dossier alleges the teacher was warned of the investigation and ‘behaved impeccably’ during the probe, resulting in the conclusion that the complaints were unfounded.

Transferred twice

Finally, following a formal written complaint by a co-worker, he was transferred to South Tweed Primary School in 1991.

One teacher there described in a statement the accused teacher’s work attire as ‘short “ruggers” with no underpants, and often you could see the cheeks of his bum, his testicles and his penis hanging out the bottom’.

While at the school, further allegations regarding his behaviour emerged, including that he constantly locked himself with little girls in the class storeroom, abused and physically assaulted an Aboriginal boy, and supervised a school sleepover where he allegedly sexually assaulted six young girls.

In 1993 a fellow teacher lodged a formal complaint to the NSW education department regarding his alleged sexual assault of a Grade 3 student whereby an ‘unspecified action’ was taken, according to the dossier.

The following year the teacher had to defend himself in a Sydney court against accusations that he sexually assaulted a disabled East Murwillumbah Primary School student, according to the dossier, but he continued to teach, this time at Centaur Primary School.

In 1998, he was suspended from Centaur but by 2003 was back teaching at the school where he allegedly assaulted a Grade 5 female student.

In 2004, after a series of complaints by Centaur parents, the NSW education department informed them that their file on the teacher contained multiple complaints of child sexual abuse, that many incidents were of a criminal nature, and that the complaints were being referred to the NSW police.

In October, 2004, the NSW Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad stated it would not investigate the allegations.

A year later, the lead campaigner complained of repeated harassment and intimidation by NSW police officers.

Finally, in 2006, the NSW education department completed its investigation, concluding that the teacher engaged in ‘improper conduct against students’ and subsequently permanently banned him from teaching in the NSW public education system.


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1 COMMENT

  1. Thank goodness for the persistent bravery of people who refuse to let those who have been abused, walk alone through this immensely terrible darkness. Thankyou for all that you have done and are doing, and thankyou to the Echo for reporting this important story…Blessings.

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