Ezra was born in the 1960s to a wealthy Jewish family. He attended the local state primary school but his mother felt the education was lacking so she moved him to an elite private school.
Ezra did well in the junior school, but the atmosphere in the senior school was very different. He said there was a physical education teacher there who ‘ruled by fear’.
‘They all ruled [in] loco parentis. They all felt they could do whatever they like. It doesn’t just apply to him. There was a whole regime, a cadre of these people in the school from the headmaster, to the deputy headmaster to this particular brute.’
The PE teacher would pick on certain boys, including Ezra, and regularly slap and hit them, which led to him living in a ‘constant realm of fear’. He said the school had a high-level focus on achievement, backed up by this physical abuse.
‘The mediocre kids were left to flounder, myself one of them. Excellent students, both physically and academically, they were pretty much left to themselves. They were the angels in that school at the time … There was an unruly atmosphere in the school that was controlled pretty much by the iron fist of this particular physical education officer – you could refer to him as the school enforcer.’
When he was in his mid-teens, Ezra was chosen to be part of a group giving a sporting demonstration for the parents. The PE teacher was originally from Eastern Europe and Ezra said he ran the training in a manner similar to ‘Hitler Youth demonstrating physical prowess’.
Ezra was unable to perform the physical tasks required and the PE teacher insisted on coaching him privately. It was during these sessions that he sexually abused Ezra. He also taunted Ezra, calling him ‘pretty Jew boy’ or ‘blondie’. The abuse continued for a number of weeks until the demonstration had taken place.
Ezra said the events left him very angry and he started to research the teacher, believing him to have been a former member of the armed forces of Nazi Germany.
‘From then I rarely attended the PE classes, except for a couple of times. And I actually told him, I started to ask questions, I said “What did you do during the war?” … I suggested he might be a Nazi. And his brutality was such that one could certainly believe, from my side of the fence, that he was.’
After that confrontation, the teacher left Ezra alone.
Ezra started truanting from school, missing long stretches. One day the deputy headmaster called him into his office to say there had been a report of him breaking some furniture. Ezra told him that was impossible as he hadn’t been at school for three weeks and the master threated to cane him.
‘By that stage I’d acquired some sort of spine and I said, “I’ll have to … defend myself if you try and hit me with that thing”. He was a bit taken aback by that and this guy was huge, a big powerful man. He said, “Aren’t you happy here?” And I said, “No, I hate it”. So he said “I’ll open the door and you go out and never come back”.’
Ezra’s parents then sent him to a different school, where he had no problems. He never reported the abuse to the school or his parents. He contemplated going to the police but never got there.
‘It hasn’t turned me into a violent person full of resentment, although I do resent this person and the way [the school] behaved towards me.
‘The institution condoned what he did. So the institution, being the school at that time, is as much accountable as he is, as far as I’m concerned.’
He said that, at the time, everyone was under the belief that the teachers had the legal right to use physical punishment against the kids. However he still has nightmares about that particular teacher. He also later found information that confirmed his suspicions about the teacher’s military past.
He told the Commissioner it had been cathartic to tell his story.
‘It’s not a very long story but it’s what happened. And it’s what happened to me.’