Jaqueline's story

Memories of high school camping trips and excursions to the snow in the late 1960s are forever tainted for Jaqueline. During the trips Mark Burnside, a teacher at her Melbourne state school, seduced her and other teenage girls entrusted to his care.

‘He was probably in his 30s and seen as a bit of a stud, and when I was 14 or 15 he’d take me aside and make me feel special saying things like, “I’ll marry you and we’ll buy a farm and have a horse”, that kind of thing. Then he’d find opportunities to get me into bed. I was really, really naive, I thought the sun shone out of his backside.’

When she was 16, Jaqueline found out she was one of dozens of girls, including her sister, targeted by the teacher. In some cases she believes his victims fell pregnant and had abortions. It’s only recently as a mature adult that Jaqueline has been able to reveal details of the abuse to her family, and she believes it’s negatively influenced her ability to relate to others throughout life. As far as she’s aware, Mark was never reported to authorities.

‘It’s only recently I’ve started to understand why I sought relationships with older men from a very early age. That certainly shaped my whole life, and I now realise the impact it had on my education in the early years.’

Jaqueline built a successful career in education. During her career she has been prepared to stand up for those who allege inappropriate treatment by a teacher. ‘When a teacher takes advantage of their position to influence their students, it’s an extreme breach of the trust that exists in that situation.

'Perhaps through my experience as a teenager, the course of action is crystal clear to me – abuse must be reported, and attitudes changed to reflect current social expectations.’

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