In the late 1970s Christa’s parents were working overseas. Christa was sent to board in a girls’ school run by the Anglican Church in northern Queensland. She completed Year 9 and 10 there and was very focused on her schoolwork. She turned 15 while she was there.
‘I was a long way from home and I wasn’t the only one’, Christa told the Commissioner. ‘The girls there came from outback stations and different islands so we were all there on our own.’
One day Christa reported having a sore neck after a dance class. The headmaster, Alan Randall, took a personal interest. ‘Mr Randall took me to a doctor who lived about two houses down from the school … I guess that was his GP premises.’
Randall stayed with Christa while the doctor performed a quick examination of Christa’s neck and back. Then the doctor told her she needed another procedure.
‘He said I should take my uniform off and go into another room, just in my undies and nothing else, to have an X-ray.’
The headmaster accompanied the doctor into the adjoining room where Christa undressed.
‘I felt uncomfortable, but I took my clothes off and I went and lay down in this X-ray room on this table and they went behind this screen thing … I was lying flat on my back on this table.’
Headmaster Randall came over and carefully positioned Christa’s hands between her breasts. ‘Then I had to turn my face away from where they were standing … and then I heard “click-click” and they said, “Oh, you can get dressed now”.’
‘I just felt really odd about it at the time. But I didn’t have any experience of X-rays at that age … It didn’t click until a few years later when I’d had more X-rays … it didn’t seem like any X-rays I’ve had since then.’
She was given no treatment for her sore neck and there was no follow-up examination. Christa was not given any X-ray films or a report.
Christa believes she may actually have been photographed by Randall or the doctor while she was lying nearly naked on the table. She wonders what became of those photos, and worries that other girls at the school may have been exploited or hurt.
Christa did not report the incident to her parents, nor to anyone at the school. ‘I didn’t want to upset things because of my schooling so I never said anything.’
The incident has contributed to Christa’s distrust of other people, especially males. ‘And my self-esteem – because you feel angry and you get depressed. I’ve had issues.’
‘I didn’t actually tell anyone until years later and I thought, “What can you do?”’ Then Christa heard about the work of the Royal Commission and decided to tell her story to add to the Commission’s knowledge.
Christa would like to see more protections in place for children in boarding schools, who are a long way from the support of home and family in many cases. She believes she should have had a female chaperone during her visit to the doctor. And children need a trusted figure they can report to and confide in if they are troubled.
‘When you’re in a school situation and you’re trying to get good grades it’s very difficult. Who do you talk to about the headmaster?’