Aaron's story

Aaron is a whistleblower who spent almost 40 years working as a teacher in a public high school. Over the course of his career he reported several instances of child sexual abuse, and on almost every occasion his complaints were ignored or mishandled.

The first instance involved a female teacher who had moved into a flat with a Year 10 boy. The boy was sent home after his parents complained, and the teacher was simply moved onto another school with no other action taken.

After that, there was an incident where Aaron discovered that a student had been doing her work experience at a brothel. Aaron immediately informed the principal, who organised for the girl to spend the last days of her work experience at school.

‘I said, “Do you want to report it to my policeman friend?” He said, “I am your principal” – and I remember his exact words – “I’m instructing you to leave this matter with me”.’

As far as Aaron knows, the matter ended there. By this stage, Aaron’s frustrations were starting to build.

There was then a third incident involving a naive boy from one of the special ‘opportunity classes’ who told Aaron that he’d been getting driving lessons from a man he’d met in a shop. Aaron became suspicious when the boy said that he paid $10 for each lesson and that he and the man would drive at night for hours, travelling to nearby cities and towns.

Aaron reported the matter to the deputy principal who dismissed his concerns, first saying that the boy was old enough to know what he was doing and then adding, ‘He might enjoy it’.

‘So I shoved him into the wall and said I’m going down to see the principal.’

The principal said he would talk to the boy’s grandmother and put an end to his driving lessons.

‘And I said, “Right, is this going to the police?” And I got the same standover tactic: “I am the principal, you will leave this matter with me” … That’s when I lost a bit of confidence in the place.’

A few years later, one of Aaron’s students took some time off school, supposedly to have her appendix out. Aaron now believes that she had fallen pregnant to one of the teachers and was in fact having an abortion.

‘Definitely organised with the school’s knowledge and I think, probably, the school’s contrivance.’

The teacher in question was a man named Gibbons. Aaron later discovered that he had a record of abusing his female students.

Gibbons wasn’t the only one. Over the years Aaron saw at least three other teachers moved to his school ‘under a cloud of suspicion’. His belief now is that the local department of education used the school as a ‘dumping ground’ for teachers who had interfered with their students and needed to be ‘moved on’.

Eventually Gibbons was removed from the school. The principal held a meeting and told all the staff that he had been seconded elsewhere on an important project. Aaron questioned the principal about this, and when he got the same evasive answers as usual he took matters into his own hands and reported Gibbons himself.

The school and the education department hit back, twisting the issue around and charging Aaron and a couple of his fellow whistleblowers with offences under the Teaching Services Act. ‘We were charged with not reporting, and we were the only ones who had.’

The matter later went to the Ombudsman who found that the charges had been contrived. After that Aaron and the other teachers successfully sued the department for damage to reputation.

Aaron is retired now but remains concerned about student welfare. Over his long career he has seen many commissions and inquiries come and go, and he is sceptical about their ability to effect real change.

‘A royal commission makes recommendations. Then a royal commission folds up its tent. Who makes sure those recommendations are followed? That’s what happened here. That’s what worries me.’

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