‘I knew it was wrong but these guys were bringing me into the adult music world.’
Amber loved music and excelled at it. In high school when she was 13, Amber was given an opportunity to study privately with Bart Lennard, an external music teacher. She suggested that they form a select group at school that Lennard would supervise. Amber was so excited to commence these lessons with her friends.
The group did performances every two weeks outside school hours. Amber said that Lennard was present at every performance, which she thought was ‘fabulous’. She also spent many hours with Lennard away from the group and they formed a close connection.
Lennard groomed Amber for two years. He told her about his ex-girlfriend, who Amber later discovered was another ex-student of his, and she told him of her troubles at school. She said they had such a close bond that other students began to notice their relationship.
‘I knew everything about this man … People started asking me questions about him.’
In the mid-1990s when Amber was 16, Lennard asked her to join his band. Her parents trusted Lennard so they did not object. She said the band was based outside the school and had three other members. The other members were all male teachers who were dating students.
But when she started attending music gigs, Lennard’s behaviour changed. He touched her inappropriately several times after they had finished a show. At this stage she had never been exposed to adult sexuality and found it confusing. She couldn’t tell anyone or say no to him because he helped her with her career and she felt she owed him.
‘It’s just so textbook that he was offering me so much.’
On one occasion, Lennard shoved Amber against the wall kissed her in front of younger students at school. On another he touched her breasts. Amber was shocked and couldn’t say a word.
Amber believes Lennard knew that she wouldn’t have said anything. She was a respectful kid and she liked him too much. She knew something wasn’t right about him so she mentioned what had happened to one of her friends. After that, she kept it private.
Amber never had sex with Lennard but she knew he was ‘gunning for it’. He was always in contact with her, always finding a reason to call her or see her. She was introduced to several different bands because of him.
In the early 2000s when she was 19, Amber and Lennard were in another band together but Lennard got kicked out by the other members because he was unreliable for rehearsals and gigs. Amber knew it was because he was at a different performance, but Lennard blamed it on her.
‘They got sick of him not being there so they got rid of him. He blamed me and went to my old school, which I was then working at. He told the whole department that I had done wrong by him and told all the students.’
Amber had been working at her old school to support herself while she studied, which had been going well. When Lennard told the school about her ‘bad behaviour’ she was ostracised and her colleagues ignored her completely. She got drunk and apologised to Lennard, which he accepted, because she wanted to make peace.
It took Amber several years to understand that what happened between her and Lennard was inappropriate. She said it ‘clicked’ when a friend told her of her teenage relationship with a priest. As Amber had become a teacher herself, she decided to do something about her past.
When she was 26, she reported Lennard to the Department of Education and Child Development. She was urged to contact the police, which made her think they had heard reports of Lennard before.
She didn’t anticipate that Lennard would react in a vindictive way. He contacted her past partners, friends and current colleagues and said that she was spreading lies about him. This did enormous damage to her credibility and reputation, in her career and within the music scene. Amber was upset that other band members sided with Lennard.
‘It’s a boys’ club that music scene, and I spoke out against them … They banded together and made life extremely difficult [for me].’
This caused her anxiety and stress. She was never offered support after she made her complaint. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She blames herself for what happened and self-medicates with alcohol. She has had suicidal thoughts and has self-harmed in the past.
She learned that Lennard was suspended from his own teaching post but he was not charged. He returned to his position at the school when the investigation ended. The education department did not update her during the investigation or when they concluded it.
‘My issue with the whole thing is that the education department since then has contacted me twice. Once to make sure my statement was correct and then another time to get some contacts from me … It was all second hand information [that I received].’