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Irving Graham's story

Irving attended a state boys’ high school in Melbourne during the 1970s. One of the teachers, Mr Mason, would take some of the students out for activities.

When Irving was 12 he and a few other boys went camping with Mr Mason. The teacher ‘arranged it so that I slept in the back of the station wagon with him’ rather than in the tent with the other boys. While they were alone, Irving was sexually abused.

‘He molested me, I was penetrated and coerced into performing sex acts.’

This abuse continued for the next few years. ‘There were many more occasions. He’d quite frequently take myself and other boys to the drive-in, and always arranged it so that I sat next to his driver’s seat and made me masturbate him.’ Irving isn’t sure whether the other children knew what was happening, ‘but I think they were also victims’.

It seems that many people involved with the school knew or suspected that Mason was abusing boys. It was certainly known that he was seeing students outside of school hours. One of the other teachers would sometimes come to Irving’s house and ask if Mason was there, but ‘why he came around I don’t know’.

Some parents warned their children to stay away from Mason, and Irving was teased by other boys about his relationship with the teacher.

‘There was one teacher that looked after me, he knew what was going on ... He was a wonderful man ... He sussed out what was going on.’ Irving told this teacher what Mason was doing and ‘I don’t know what he did, but I think he did things behind the scenes’. The abuse continued after this, ‘but I had a friend I could confide in, an adult’.

At the time Irving did not disclose the abuse to his family, who lived by an ethos of ‘mustn’t complain’. ‘How could you come home and talk about something like that? You couldn’t.’

Mason gave Irving a bike and provided him with cigarettes. The abuse only stopped when ‘I got old enough, in Form 4, to say “piss off”’.

Another teacher, Mr Whitlam, also ‘decided to induct me as one of his boys. He was a “get your gear off” man in the 70s’. Mr Whitlam would let Irving use a school computer which was otherwise out of bounds in return for spending time with him in his flat or car.

‘Mr Whitlam never actually touched me. But he used to get naked in his car, and he took me and a couple of other boys to his flat. And he’d just get naked.’ The children were not made to take their clothes off, and Mr Whitlam did not touch them. ‘Not the kids. This guy would just get naked in his flat and walk around naked.’

As a teenager Irving became very rebellious. He told the Commissioner that he was a ‘sex addict’ for a long time as a result of being sexualised by the abuse.

‘When you are that young and you are awakened to a sexual world, everything changes. I mean, as adults we all know about the huge gamut of the sexual world that we live in, but as a child you’re not supposed to know that.’

Irving first spoke about the abuse after his mother and father died, as ‘it would have killed my parents to have known, it would have hurt them so deeply. I can only come forward and speak about it that they’ve passed’.

When his own kids were growing up Irving said ‘I guarded them like a junkyard dog’.

His wife and children now know about what Mason did. His daughter and wife have been supportive but his son is struggling with this information.

Some years ago Irving received a flyer from the school inviting him to a reunion. ‘And I sent them a letter telling them what a den of sadism and paedophilia it was ... They never wrote back. Maybe they ignored it.’

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