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Gervaise's story

Gervaise is a whistleblower who was so concerned that a former student, Renko, was being abused at a well-known Sydney Anglican school for boys, that he personally took his second-hand knowledge to the principal.

In his first teaching role in the 1980s Gervaise was appointed in charge of a subject department. This involved ‘a lot of outside school activity’ which, he admitted, didn’t occur to him at the time might one day raise questions about staff/student contact.

Within about a year or so of his appointment a new child protection policy was being talked about by staff. Gervaise remembers thinking that reporting someone merely on suspicion was ‘too much’, that the policy itself was ‘vague’, and that staff members were not urged to follow it stringently.

He thought it was in the late 1990s that he received documentation which ‘actually outlined the procedure, and that procedure meant going to the headmaster’.

Unlike when the policy was first introduced, Gervaise recalled the headmaster was very firm about this and impressed upon all of the teachers that it must be followed strictly.

‘I think at the time I was a bit surprised that that was the channel because what I’d understood before was to report directly to police.’

Unsure about any particular trigger for the revised policy, Gervaise thinks it could have been in response to embarrassing publicity about a bullying scandal at the school.

Another teacher told Gervaise that a previous staff member, Frank, who also doubled as a sport coach, had left the school because of inappropriate contact with children. He did not think the information was very reliable for several reasons including that the information may have been embellished gossip.

However, the same teacher also complained to Gervaise about a new casual teacher, Rory, who was rumoured to have an interest in young boys.

‘I dismissed him. He [Rory] was only there temporarily anyway … I just didn’t want anything happening … It wasn’t because he was gay, it was because of the possibility he may be interested in boys.’

Gervaise also had misgivings about two teachers in another department, but most of all, he was worried about Matt Foreshaw.

Around the time of the new policy, yet another staff member told Gervaise that she knew of a former relationship between Foreshaw and Renko, who had been one of Gervaise’s best students some years before. The discussion centred around the age of consent in New South Wales. Due to Renko being at least 17 if not 18 at the time, the teacher thought that it was ‘fine’.

‘Regardless of technically/legally it may not have been a crime if Renko was a consenting party, there was a professional perspective to a teacher/student relationship that was troubling’, Gervaise told the Royal Commission.

He recalled his anger and trouble in his own church when a paedophile member of his congregation was discovered to have abused a pre-school child.

‘It was the memory of that. It makes me emotional now. It makes me really angry’, said Gervaise, recalling how the teacher ‘dismissed this thing’ between Foreshaw and Renko that he understood had been told to her directly by Foreshaw himself some years earlier.

During Gervaise’s last year at the school, Foreshaw had volunteered his time at some outside school activities being held by the department which often meant up to 10 staff supervising up to 150 boys for at least a week. Gervaise did not witness or hear anything untoward about Foreshaw’s behaviour.

The staff member who told him about Foreshaw, who was still at the school, and Renko, who had left some years earlier, refused to tell the headmaster. So Gervaise did.

‘At the end of the interview [with the headmaster] he thanked me. I remember that quite clearly and [he] said that this was now for him to look after and not to mention it to other staff … I felt it was formal. I really felt like I’d given him the information. I can’t remember whether he wrote it down. I remember him standing up beside his desk and thanking me and saying goodbye. Maybe my impression is of not having been attended to the way I would have liked’, Gervaise said.

He admitted that he felt that that headmaster, new at the time but previously closely associated with the school, had made the school ‘become a business’.

Two decades after the time of the alleged teacher/student relationship, Gervaise heard that Renko had died. His family announced publicly that he had been sexually abused at school, and asked anyone with information to contact them. Gervaise did, and learned that Renko had abused illicit substances and attempted suicide and been unhappy for years.

Of his contact with the school board, Gervaise said he had better relations with the clergy and the business people than with old boys from the school. ‘I think their concern was the reputation of the school [at all costs].’

He said he learned later from Renko’s mother that the headmaster never contacted her about her son’s abuse.

Foreshaw left the school at the end of the same year that Gervaise had complained to the headmaster.

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