Report into Knox Grammar School and the Uniting Church released

13 September 2016

The Royal Commission’s Report into Case Study 23 – the response of Knox Grammar School and the Uniting Church of Australia to allegations of child sexual abuse at Knox Grammar School in Wahroonga, was released today.

The report follows a public hearing held in 2015 which inquired into the experiences of sexual abuse of former students at Knox Grammar School in Wahroonga NSW. The hearing also examined the response of Knox and the Uniting Church in Australia between 1970 and 2012 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct by a number of teachers towards students at Knox.

The Royal Commission heard evidence from 12 former students of the school who detailed the sexual abuse that they suffered while at Knox and the devastating effect it had on them. Most of the former students gave evidence to the Royal Commission that they did not disclose the abuse while they were at school. The parents of two students also gave evidence about the impact of the abuse on their children and families.

A number of former students reported the abuse to police in 2009 following the establishment of Strike Force Arika, which investigated allegations of historical child sex offences at Knox. Five teachers from Knox - Roger James, Adrian Nisbett, Damien Vance, Craig Treloar and Barrie Stewart - were charged and later convicted of child sex offences against students.

A former headmaster of Knox, Dr Ian Paterson, told the Royal Commission that, during his 29 years in the role, he was only aware of one instance of sexual abuse, involving Mr Vance.

The Royal Commission found that was clearly incorrect and that Dr Paterson was aware of allegations in relation to Mr Nisbett, Mr Treloar, Mr Stewart and an ‘affair’ between then student Anthony Carden and teacher, known as ARZ. Mr Nisbett continued to teach at Knox until 2004 and Mr Treloar continued to teach at Knox until 2009. The Royal Commission found Dr Paterson was also aware of a sexual assault on a 14-year-old student, ARN, in one of the boarding house dormitories by a man wearing a balaclava.

The Royal Commission found that Dr Paterson provided misleading and positive references to former teachers Roger James and Damien Vance.

By 1992, Dr Paterson and a number of senior staff members were aware of allegations of an ‘affair’ between former student Anthony Carden and teacher ARZ and that Barrie Stewart had sexually molested a student, ATJ. The Royal Commission found that Dr Paterson failed to inform the Knox Council of these allegations. The Royal Commission also found that Dr Paterson’s response to these allegations involved him seeking to cover up these allegations. Mr Stewart continued to teach at Knox until 2000.

The Royal Commission found that, during Dr Paterson’s time as headmaster of Knox, his attitude and the culture he fostered at the school were dismissive of allegations of child sexual abuse and that he deliberately withheld information from the Knox Council, the body responsible for the management of the school.

The Royal Commission found Dr Paterson failed to prioritise the welfare of the boys at Knox over the reputation of the school by covering up allegations in relation to two teachers and failing to notify the parents of boys who had made allegations..

Read the full report.

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