Hudson’s story takes place when he was the principal of a government high school.
‘I’d only been there a couple of weeks … [the acting deputy] brought this girl to me and said, “I think you should hear this story”. And it concerned a teacher who apparently had made various overtures to this girl and eventually had offered to drive her home from sport, taken her into his house and into his bedroom and fallen on top of her on the bed. She had struggled and screamed and he then let her go and she left immediately and went home and told her mother about it.’
Hudson chose not to take any action straight away.
‘Because knowing what a teacher who was notified was going to cop, I didn’t want to do it needlessly. I also had the mother say “I don’t want you to report this. Just move her out of the class”. And I said, “No, you can’t just move out of the class, that’s just transferring the problem to someone else, I’m not going to do that”. But I did delay overnight.
‘I chewed on it over the weekend. There was no question the girl had been in danger from this bloke. I did speak to him and he knew that he was under suspicion. I wasn’t going to just push it away. That was the last thing I was going to do. I was going to make a decision over the weekend and on the Monday I got another complaint so I would have done it anyway, I think, but that finished it off.’
The girl who came to him on the Monday said the same teacher had touched her breasts a number of times, under the pretence of helping her close the windows. After telling her story to Hudson, this girl broke down and was very upset.
‘At least four girls as it turned out eventually were on more than one occasion subjected to this. But I didn’t know this immediately. The two girls who came to me, I said to them, “I’m going to do something about this. If he ever comes near you again, you come straight to me, immediately”. And they were comforted by this … So I then reported it to the department. That day, pretty much straight away.’
As principal, Hudson had no power to suspend or sack the teacher so there was nothing more he could do. The education department admonished him for not reporting the first incident on that first day, but nothing else happened. Hudson rang them frequently to find out what was going on, but said he was always fobbed off.
It turned out that the teacher had engaged a solicitor and was threatening legal action. The solicitor accused Hudson of racist behaviour, and of cooking up the story to get at him.
‘He was supposed to be under investigation by the department but in fact he wasn’t. And this went on and on and I just got so disgusted.’
Hudson told the department he didn’t want the man in his school any longer and asked for him to be transferred, which finally happened after a year. ‘This was not the course of action that I wanted but that was the only thing I could do to get rid of him.’
Two years after those first reports, the teacher was reprimanded by the department, which Hudson said amounted to a slap on the wrist.
In the meantime, two other girls had come forward, but Hudson didn’t notify the department of those reports as he couldn’t see the point.
‘I’d satisfied myself that that was all I could do. We had done the best that we could. So I just said, “That’s that”. I satisfied myself that the girls were all happy with the way I’d handled it and I eventually got statements from them to that effect. We had a school counsellor and he interviewed all the girls, he had sessions with them.’
He also spoke to the parents. None of them wanted to report it to the police. He put the files away and didn’t think about it much for the next few years. Then, following the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service, the education department issued new guidelines on reporting child sexual abuse, which commanded principals to re-notify any cases that had not been properly investigated.
‘Most people had enough sense to realise that anybody who put their head up was likely to get it shot off but stupid me, I said, “Well, I’ve got two cases here which have not been acted on”. And I reported so. I re-notified. At that stage I became a marked man, I’d say.’
An investigator was appointed to the case but Hudson said he was the one being investigated, because he stuck by his statement that the department had failed to act on his notifications. He was then charged by the department with 17 breaches of policy.
Hudson admitted that he had made some mistakes, including warning the teacher that he was going to notify against him, but nothing that justified the pressure on him. The department found him guilty on all charges, and demanded he resign or be sacked.
‘I’d lost faith in the system by then and I thought my only chance of getting any justice here is to go outside the department, go to court and fight it out there. So I resigned and subsequently fought them in the District Court and won. They appealed and got my damages wound back a bit. And they even threatened to go to the High Court.’
Eventually, the department was obliged to pay damages and Hudson received $300,000. But it destroyed his teaching career and he never set foot in a classroom again.
He said the department needs to put more faith in principals and trust them to do the right thing, as they are the ones who know their school best.
‘The department has to stop behaving like the central committee of the Communist Party. They are not separate from teachers and from schools and from kids, and they behave as if they are. They do have to become transparent so that there are not secrets and there are not deals done, and there are not people being targeted because they disagree with a departmental policy and say so.’