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Angus James's story

In his mid-teens, Angus was sexually abused at his Anglican school in the mid-1960s by a teacher called Toby Wells. Wells would touch his genitals in the class room and the school corridor.

Toby Wells had taught at the school in the 1940s but had been forced to resign by the board. Angus quoted from a book about the school which stated that the resignation came ‘with the recommendation that he never be re-employed’. The book described Wells as a spiteful man who enjoyed thrashing the students.

It was a newly arrived headmaster called Ian Cole who re-employed Wells in the mid-1960s. But Wells’ second career at the school was short-lived and shadowed by ‘constant and substantial allegations’ of paedophile activity.

Angus remembers that rumours swirled around about the new headmaster as well. ‘There was numerous allegations, rumours, discussion, talk’ at the school and in the wider community that Cole was a paedophile and that students were being regularly abused. ‘These allegations … have persisted to this date.’

Cole left the school in mysterious circumstances and Angus has spent years trying to find out what they were.

Stories abounded: Cole had been caught with pornographic material; he was having an affair with a former student; he’d been caught abusing students; and that he fled overseas after being interviewed by police.

Angus told the Anglican Church about Toby Wells in 2000. This was the first time he ever disclosed the sexual abuse.

‘From 2000 when I approached the Anglican Commission on child sexual abuse to this particular day … I’ve had one … aim … I would like some openness as to why Cole left the school … because it puts the things that happened into context ... That is all that I’ve ever wanted.’

Angus was given very good counselling by the Anglican Commission but was also told that it had no jurisdiction over an independent school. ‘They avoided it very, very nicely.’

He later met with the school’s current headmaster to talk about Cole. The response was, ‘Come on, we all know that at schools there are teachers that you need to keep away from’.

The headmaster said there was nothing in the school archives in relation to why Cole left. He did offer Angus an apology, ‘even though I’d never told him what occurred’.

Angus also talked told the police about Cole and Wells but they aren’t pursuing it, which doesn’t surprise him as the two men have since died.

Angus has had ongoing psychiatric care over the years.

He told the Commissioner he can’t accept that he’ll never know why Ian Cole left the school so suddenly.

A published history of the school that refers to the stories of over 100 former staff and students, including Angus, is scattered with euphemisms and innuendos about Cole and Wells, Angus said. This book has made it hard for him to let go of his pursuit of the truth.

‘If it’s stated now that there was … an absolute determination to obliterate, destroy any wrong-doing … what does that involve? Who did it? Where did it happen?’

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