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Ash Graham's story

‘I guess the reason I came forward and called the Royal Commission was the fact that I read an article in the [newspaper] recently which spoke about things of this nature and they made it sound as though it was all before the 90s, and that it was well over with in the 90s. And I guess I decided to … tell my story and give any help that I can to having this man brought to justice.’

Ash attended a small private school in Victoria in the mid 1990s. ‘We were always very well aware as children that something was not right with this teacher. We used to sort of joke amongst us that he was a paedophile before I even think we realised what the term paedophile meant.’

Ash was not sexually abused by his teacher, Tony Williams, but witnessed inappropriate behaviour by him during gym classes and at school camps.

‘I have sort of recently spoken to a couple of friends that I went to school with and … they sort of seem to remember things differently to me … They remember Tony being more physical in the gym aspect … When playing games he would be … sort of close to the students during the gym activities.’

After gym class, ‘we were pressured, heavily pressured by Tony to go into the showers … and there was a huge amount of pressure on us to be naked in those showers with Tony and another teacher at the time as well’.

Ash always showered in his underwear in Williams’s presence. He believes that the other teacher may have been there in order to protect the boys from Williams. ‘That’s my personal belief. I can’t say that that’s gospel, but that’s how I see [the other teacher’s] involvement in that situation.’

Williams also used to take students camping. On these camps, ‘We’d be pressured to take our clothes off and swim naked in waterholes or rivers … or wherever we might find ourselves’. Ash recalled one occasion when he and three students were pressured by Williams to swim naked with him during a bushwalk. The boys refused.

‘I think if I wasn’t there, maybe the other students would have, but I was sort of determined that none of us were going to get naked and swim with this teacher. So we didn’t. But I know in many other circumstances, the students did.’

Ash believes the headmaster and headmistress were aware of Williams’s activities, as there had been allegations about him as far back as the 70s and 80s. Williams was removed from the school while Ash was still a student there because of those allegations.

Although his experiences at school have not had a huge impact on his adult life, Ash now finds himself, ‘just angry at the situation, angry at the school, angry at the teachers that were there to protect us’.

The reason Ash came forward to the Royal Commission was ‘because I was angry and I honestly believe that I did have friends that were possibly assaulted by Tony. I can’t swear that that’s a hundred per cent gospel truth, but I have my suspicions’.

Recently, Ash has spoken to some of his former schoolmates, ‘and they were very much of the same opinion as myself, that it was wrong for us to be put in those situations’. One of his friends, who saw other things going on with Williams, told Ash that he would be willing to tell his story, too.

Ash told the Commissioner that he’s concerned that when Williams was removed, he moved to regional Victoria where he was teaching children at Sunday school. He has reported Williams to the police and has been placed on a list of potential witnesses if he should be needed.

‘I’m doing this more to help others. I don’t feel too much that my life has been negatively affected by it, but like I said, I believe there were other people, a lot of other students at the time that were affected and I think a lot of them are now having children … and I think they would rather things not come out, things to be left in the past.’

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