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Ivy's story

Until she was 10 years old, Ivy loved her time at the state primary school that she attended on the outskirts of Perth. But that changed in the early 1960s when Mr Newson arrived and became her class teacher, as well as the school’s new headmaster.

At that time it was standard practice for a nursing team to visit the school every few years to conduct medical examinations of the children. Ivy remembers what happened when she arrived for her examination.

‘You had to strip to your waist’, she told the Commissioner. ‘He [Newson] was peering through the window, which was just from there to here. And the doctor and the nurse had their back to the window. And he was crouched down and peering through. He was watching me.’

From then on the headmaster took a particular interest in Ivy. ‘In the holidays just after I turned 11, I started to menstruate … I had to change my things fairly often, so I asked permission to leave the class and he used to follow me to the toilets and he would sort of stand outside.’

Newson would then follow Ivy to the incinerator where she disposed of the sanitary materials. ‘I was really frightened because he didn’t say a word he just stood there watching me. He’d come out of the classroom to do this.’

One day Newson took Ivy and another girl out of class and led them to a storeroom. ‘He beckoned us to come in, and it was sort of darkish in there but we got to the door and we could see that he was undoing his flies. We both just looked at each other and ran.’

That was the last time Mr Newson attempted to physically assault Ivy, but she believes he targeted her in other ways. One day in class she was drawing a picture of a girl in a bikini. After seeing the drawing Newson took her aside and told her that an inspector was coming to determine which class the children would attend in high school.

‘He said that he might tell the inspector I had done this and that would affect what class I went into. So from then on I was absolutely petrified because I thought that he would do this and I would be in some sort of lower class as a result.’

Ivy was too scared to report Newson’s behaviour to anyone at the time. ‘I couldn’t believe that that was happening and I wouldn’t have dared draw their attention to it. It was sort of unthinkable to question anything that the headmaster might do.’

Several years later, while Ivy was in high school, her mother mentioned that Newson was in trouble for something he’d done with a girl. ‘And she said “Did you know anything about him being like that?” And I said “yes”, and then she just didn’t say any more and I didn’t say any more.’

At age 14, Ivy attempted suicide. She told the Commissioner she wasn’t sure if this was due to the sexual abuse.

‘But I was quite depressed and quite withdrawn. I felt that there was nothing of me that was private, that I was sort of fair game for anybody, and that sort of played out within my subsequent relationships.’

Ivy experienced violence in her first marriage and after raising three children, she eventually divorced aged 38. Over the next few years she went through two sexual relationships with clergymen from the Anglican Church and made three more suicide attempts.

In the mid-1990s Ivy married her second husband, ‘a very good, very kind man’. During the first few years of their marriage Ivy told him about the abuse, but she has not discussed it in depth with anyone else, only mentioning it in passing to a psychiatrist in the early 2000s.

Ivy still struggles with depression and feelings of guilt and shame. She told the Commissioner, ‘Even the bit about the drawing, even now I feel embarrassed about mentioning it because I think maybe I did do something wrong. I know I didn’t but I just feel that he made me feel that I was wrong’.

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