Trinity Grammar School Child Sexual Abuse

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SpeakersArena The Hon Franca


The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [7.22 p.m.]: At the request of the family involved I will put on the record a case of sexual abuse at one of our prestigious private schools. The names of the victims have been changed, but the name of the perpetrator, who was charged, pleaded guilty and was convicted a few weeks ago, will be put on the parliamentary record. I shall call the family in question "A". Mother and father worked very hard, hoping to give their sons a better future. They are loving and dedicated parents, and their greatest ambition has always been to give their sons a good education and a good start in life. They decided that a private school was their best choice, and, despite the financial burden, they chose Trinity Grammar School in Summer Hill, one of the most prestigious private schools available to students who live in the western suburbs.

I will speak tonight of the sorrow and of the distress of the "A" family on learning that two of their sons were abused by a mathematics teacher at Trinity Grammar, Mr Robert Paul Doyle, who was a teacher at the school between 1984 and 1988, teaching year 7 to year 12. Please note that when Mr Doyle left Trinity Grammar he went on to teach at St Patrick's at Dundas, where he taught from 1989 to 1993, when he was dismissed. Did he abuse children there as well? This is a typical case of a teacher offending, being given good references and then being able to move on to another school.

Mr Doyle abused Peter and John - as I said, those are fictitious names - whilst he was giving them extra tuition. He told Peter that he was very good at maths and that he could, with extra tuition, move on to a more advanced class. With private tuition started the fondling and then the abuse, which lasted for a period of 12 to 15 months. The abuse went on at the school and at a school camp in Cronulla. Peter was very keen to do well and to move on to a more advanced class to be with a group of special friends. He would get up early in the morning and be driven to school at 7 o’clock by his parents for this extra tuition. The betrayal of trust by the teacher and the lack of supervision by
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the school is something I leave to honourable members to assess. Peter was then 13. When he tried to push away Mr Doyle’s advances he was told by him, and I read from the police transcript, "It’s normal, I do it to my kids."

It is important for honourable members to hear these sordid details to realise how cunning and deceptive these abusers are, and how difficult it is for children to fully understand what is happening to them. Mr Doyle made sure that the lessons took place early in the morning, in a closed room with the blinds down. But what is the responsibility of the school principal in all of this? Why was there no supervision at all? The trauma and despair caused to Peter by the actions of Mr Doyle are indescribable. He tried to keep away from Mr Doyle, who then became abusive towards him, calling him names. Peter eventually told a friend about the abuse and Mr Doyle was charged. I quote from the police transcript. Peter said:
      I did not give permission to Mr Doyle to assault me in any way. As a result of what he did to me, I have been rebellious for the last 10 years. I have a problem with keeping jobs and studying. I do not have any capability to concentrate. I am forever saying sorry to everybody for no reason. I have a problem with creating friendships because I do not trust anyone. For the last year I have stayed at home with no interaction with anyone and all I want to do is isolate myself.

Both parents made statements indicating how Peter became withdrawn, angry, uncontrollable and rebellious. He did not complete his education because of the abuse. After Mr Doyle’s conviction, Peter and his brother, who I said was also abused, are trying to put this terrible episode behind them. But the question that remains unsolved is how the school could be so negligent towards these two boys it had in its care. On 1 August 1988 the former headmaster of Trinity Grammar wrote to Peter’s father in these terms:
      The incident is singularly unfortunate. It produced in the boy, feelings of repulsion and fear. Mr Doyle is insistent that the whole incident was on his part, entirely playful.

He concluded by saying, "This is certainly the end of the matter." No police investigation, no dismissal of Mr Doyle, nothing. Protecting the school’s reputation was more important than protecting the children in his care. The Wood royal commission has shown how negligent many school authorities have been towards their students. This is but one of many examples. This behaviour from school authorities must cease. Protecting teachers who are paedophiles is not what we expect from school authorities. We expect them to protect the children. I have now known Peter for nearly a year. I have seen first hand what the abuse did to him. I have met and spoken to his loving mother. They are good people who have asked over and over again, "Why us? Why did it happen to our family?" There is no answer.

Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 7.28 p.m.