Anthea Gail's story

Anthea grew up in the 1950s in a small farming community in Victoria, and attended the local single teacher school. Mr Peterson was the teacher there when Anthea was 11.

When the children were having their lunch in the playground, Mr Peterson would sometimes put his hands down the front of Anthea’s jumper. ‘I had no breasts … I didn’t think that was right, but I didn’t, you know, think to report it and I just moved away and maybe other children in the school might have noticed and … reported it. I don’t know.’

On one occasion, Peterson got Anthea to sit up on a desk in the classroom. ‘He then got my hand and put it in his trouser pocket while he was teaching the class. I thought I was holding his hand … At the time, I didn’t understand … I just thought, “Oh, dunno” and went and washed my hands, and that was it.’

It wasn’t until she was in her 20s that Anthea understood what had happened. ‘And that’s when I felt sick. Because … at the time [I said], “I’ve got to go and wash my hands”. They felt, you know, not normal. It was just one hand, but I went straight outside to the tap … It wasn’t till I was married that I realised what it was.’

Anthea told the Commissioner that ‘some of the boys in the class might have seen me sitting up on the desk with my hand in his pocket … They might have … understood what was going on, but I didn’t’.

A school inspector visited the school not long after this incident, but he didn’t speak to Anthea. Anthea does recall that a new teacher appeared at the start of the following year. As an adult, Anthea thought that someone must have noticed Peterson’s behaviour and reported it.

Anthea always assumed that Peterson had been fired, and prevented from teaching children, but a few years ago, she came across some photographs of him on the noticeboard at another school that she was visiting. The photographs provided evidence that he was still teaching at least four years after she was abused.

When Anthea contacted Bravehearts about six years ago, to talk about her abuse, she came in contact with another student from her school who was also abused by Peterson. Anthea came to the Royal Commission primarily to support Wendy, after the two women reported him to the police.

Anthea told the Commissioner, ‘I’m only sort of doing this to help Wendy out … because I’m not, well, I’m a little bit scarred, but not like whatever she would be. I don’t know what happened to her … I’ve always thought I’d like him to be caught or found out or … accountable’.

Anthea doesn’t want any monetary compensation. ‘I just want him to say … and he has. He’s said he’s sorry, supposedly and that it should never have happened. And what makes us so cross now is the fact that he wasn’t removed from access to children.’

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