‘Going to the school seemed like a bad dream, pulling up and not knowing the exact full events was so terrifying and I was scared, just wanted to take my daughter home and wrap her up in my safe arms.’
In the mid-2010s, Chantelle got a call from the principal of the special-needs centre that Daisy, her 10-year-old daughter, attended. Chantelle was told that Daisy had been found naked in the toilets with a 13-year-old boy standing over her.
Racing to the centre, Chantelle pressed the principal, Joy Beadman, for details of what had happened. Beadman seemed to want to dismiss the ‘incident’, and throughout the following week kept telling Chantelle she was busy and didn’t have time to talk.
‘She said not to take the incident of what happened to our daughter to the staff or the parents of the school because of the reputation of the school. If she had said something like the welfare of the other kids I would have understood. The way I looked at it she wasn’t taking the welfare and the safety of the children [into account]. She was more worried about her reputation. It wasn’t just a casual saying. She raised her voice and I felt like it was a threatening thing.’
Beadman said she’d investigate the matter and make a report to the Queensland Department of Education within five days and that Chantelle would get a copy. Chantelle asked if the boy could be moved from Daisy’s class, but Beadman refused, saying that would ‘take him out of his comfort zone’. Likewise, she said she couldn’t move Daisy.
Chantelle told the Commissioner that Daisy’s disability was such that she couldn’t speak of what the boy had done. However, overnight her behaviour changed. ‘We used to call her a social butterfly’, Chantelle said. ‘But when that incident happened, she went into a very dark place. She went funny. She was scared of every little noise, the nightmares kept coming, wetting the bed. There were so many things.’
After 10 days and with no information or report forthcoming from Beadman, Chantelle spoke to Queensland Police. The officer on duty said the matter was with a government-appointed child safety officer and that police wouldn’t be able to take any action. When the child safety officer was contacted, she advised Chantelle to liaise with Queensland disability services. Chantelle did so and was informed by them that it was the first they’d heard of the matter. They said that it was a matter for education department staff and that Chantelle would have to take it up with the school.
In a bid to get some action, Chantelle wrote to her local member of parliament and received from him a holding letter. She also wrote directly to the Queensland education regional office. She rang a disability advocacy service, who advised Daisy wasn’t eligible for their service because she was under 16 years of age. Finally, staff of a women’s centre offered practical support and advice for her and Daisy.
Nearly a month later, Chantelle still hadn’t received a phone call, letter, report or acknowledgement of any kind. She sought a meeting with Beadman and the school guidance officer, and in the absence of childcare, asked that it be held at the women’s centre so that Daisy wouldn’t be upset returning to the special-needs centre.
Beadman rang the women’s centre and told staff she wouldn’t be attending. ‘She said she wouldn’t be there and she had no time for me’, Chantelle said. ‘She said my intentions doing this “charade” as she called it, had gone from protecting my child to hurting her reputation, and I was a vindictive person. I was just trying to get justice for my daughter. I just cried. I thought, “I’m not getting anywhere”.’
The guidance officer who came to the meeting said her hands were tied, but advised that the centre had put a risk management plan in place for the boy. Chantelle asked about the risk management plan for her daughter and was told ‘these things take time’.
There was a recommendation that Daisy be put in a classroom with an adjoining toilet. Chantelle thought that was missing the point. ‘I’d gone past that and was thinking of the safety of other girls and boys. I said, “Wouldn’t it be safer to put him in a classroom with a toilet?” I do believe he will offend again because I don’t believe they have the staffing and resources to always be watching him.’
The failure of the meeting was the final straw for Chantelle who withdrew Daisy from the centre. Finding another suitable placement was difficult and the move caused considerable upheaval. It was worth it though, Chantelle said, because the centre she found had child protection and safety policies that translated to practical and visible measures. Among other things, people picking up children had to be authorised and show identification, whereas in the previous centre anybody could wander in, say a child’s name, and take that boy or girl out with them.
The move had also been good for Daisy. ‘Since I put her into this other school, she’s come back. She’s got her wings back now, she’s eager to go to school. She can’t wait to go.’
Chantelle told the Commissioner that she’d had many sleepless nights in the months before coming to the Royal Commission. ‘I kept having nightmares that I couldn’t protect my daughter.’
She still hadn’t heard back from any Queensland government department representative. ‘I don’t care how many doors I get that are closed, because hopefully they’ll pass it onto somebody else who may leave it open, so that’s what I’ve mainly targeted.
‘I feel like we’re a piece of the puzzle, where my daughter is a lost piece that will never be found.’