Cameron's story

In the late 1970s, Cameron was a 15-year-old boarder at an Anglican school in Queensland. One night he and seven other students were woken up and told by Peter Sava, a prefect, to line up against the wall. Cameron said there didn’t appear to be any reason for the order, but prefects were often given free rein to do what they wanted to other students.

With the boys facing the wall, Sava went along the line and prodded each of them with an umbrella. When Cameron asked what they’d done wrong, Sava forced the metal tip of the umbrella through his pyjamas and into his anus, causing it to bleed.

Cameron told the Commissioner that the bleeding went on for weeks. ‘I had toilet paper, rolls of toilet paper, shoved up me bum to go to school. I had to go and change it like every couple of classes, go and change the toilet paper.’

The day after the assault, Cameron went to see Gordon James, the counsellor and ‘go-to’ person for boarders at the school. ‘He hypnotised me and I woke up, I don’t know, an hour later or I don’t know how long it was, and he told me I’d be all right and not to worry about it anymore. So I went back to school.’

After the event, Cameron said he was hounded and bullied by the headmaster who he suspected heard about the assault by Sava and was trying to silence any discussion about it. The punishments and bad treatment finally got too much for Cameron and he left before finishing Year 10. He didn’t ever disclose the abuse to his parents despite the injury causing severe physical problems and scarring.

In 2000, media reports began to surface about sexual abuse perpetrated by Gordon James. It was the catalyst for Cameron to report the abuse by Sava years before. The school however rejected his complaint and told him he was lying. Cameron then made a formal complaint to Queensland Police who organised a pretext call to Sava and interviewed him, but decided not to proceed with charges. One police officer indicated that she thought Cameron had made the whole story up.

Over the next decade, Cameron continued to press the school for an apology and reparations. On one occasion, he was asked by Jeffrey Mills, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, to provide photographs of his anal scarring to support his complaint.

‘What a man’, Cameron said. ‘Can you believe that? That’s what he asked for, “Photos of tissue off your anus”. Bullying to the nth degree.’ Throughout these years, Mills sent Cameron ten letters threatening he ‘either put up or shut up or go away’.

Cameron made little progress until one day he saw a photo in the newspaper of David, another student who’d been with him the night of the assault. He rang David who corroborated his story and supported his complaint to the school. The school then offered Cameron $3,000 in compensation which he rejected. ‘I said, “I’m telling you now, don’t even offer me three because you’ve already insulted me for 14 years and you’ve just done it again”.’

The school’s next offer of $5,000 was also rejected. After receiving the third offer – $20,000 – Cameron sought advice from a lawyer who recommended he accept it, so he did.

At the same time, Cameron sought a review by the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission of the earlier police process. He said one of the officers told him there had been sufficient evidence to proceed with charges in 2000. The formal finding by the Ethical Standards investigation team however, was that the police response was satisfactory. Upset when he heard this, Cameron said to an officer, ‘You want killing’.

A short time later, six armed police arrived at his front door to arrest him. ‘It was the day after they brought in those new laws for the 72 hours, lock them up without any charge, you know, on the terrorists … I told them everything … and they drove away and they said, “You poor man, this has got to be sorted out”.’

In the mid-2010s, Sava was charged by police and ordered by a magistrate to attend mediation with Cameron. Threatened with the matter proceeding to trial, Sava admitted the assault and agreed to pay Cameron $6,000 in compensation.

Cameron cited a culture of bullying and unsupervised power given to older boys at the school as the basis for the assault on him. He’d also witnessed Mills’ intimidation tactics directed towards other people, most of whom weren’t able to stand up to him.

‘I know for a fact there’s so many boys out there that won’t come forward, that haven’t come forward … The truth has been hidden for too long and [the school is] too keen to hide it and don’t want it spoken about, don’t want it mentioned.’


Content updating Updating complete