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Jim's story

Jim was singled out and victimised by his primary school teacher, Mr Richardson, for no reason other than he happened to be left-handed.

‘If he saw me writing left-handed’, Jim told the Commissioner, ‘he’d pull my hand over the edge of the desk, and he had a three-foot ruler with a metal edge in it – a dozen times over the knuckles’.

It was the mid-1950s and Jim was nine years old. For the next three years he endured increasingly violent attacks from Mr Richardson. One sweltering day, Richardson ‘decided he was going to punish me a bit further’. The teacher dragged Jim out of the classroom, told him to take off his shoes and socks and then tied him to the flagpole in the hot sun. ‘And my toes could just touch the hot bitumen. He left me up there for an hour.’

Eventually, the abuse shifted from the purely physical to the sexual. The catalyst was a cricket match, during which Jim was struck in the face with the ball.

‘I fell over, blood everywhere. Well he grabbed a hold of me … and he dragged me into a change room. And that’s where the sexual assaults happened. And I’ve suffered with that all my life.’

Jim also described another incident when he was again taken into the change room by Mr Richardson.

‘He locked that door. And I’m there, naked. And my Mum and Dad had the contract to clean that school and to clean the high school. And Mum was rapping on the door. And he turned around and put his hand over my mouth and his arm around the back of my head: “Teacher knows best. Good boy. Teacher knows best”.’

Jim was raped twice by Mr Richardson and forced to perform oral sex. He said he couldn’t report the abuse to anyone because he knew he’d be punished and no one would believe him.

‘The night after the second rape took place, Richardson had the audacity to come into our house and, in my opinion, pretended that he was very sorry for my nose. Now if I’d have turned around and called out to Mum, “This is a bloke who’s turned around and done such and such”, I know what I would have got, and very, very harshly.’

In fact, Jim’s fears turned out to be well-founded. He didn’t talk about the abuse to anyone, but about three months later a rumour circulated around the town that he had made up a story about being raped by Richardson. Jim suspects that Richardson started the rumour himself in order to paint Jim as a liar. It worked. When Jim’s mother heard the story she came ‘storming into the house’.

‘And she grabbed onto me and said, “You wait till your father gets home because you’re going to cop the biggest belting you’ve ever had. How dare you lie?” And I got a belt in the ear from her.’

The abuse ended when Jim moved to high school. Since then he has suffered from nightmares and sometimes turned to alcohol to self-medicate. He said he’s managed to survive thanks to the support of his wife.

The first time Jim ever spoke about the abuse was to a Centrelink counsellor in 2000. From there he went on to report the matter to police. The results were disappointing. Jim said the detective ‘basically called me a liar. He said a teacher wouldn’t do that’.

The case was passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions who refused to pursue it, telling Jim that the incidents happened too long ago. But by this stage Jim was determined to get an apology from the school and see justice done. He wrote letters to everyone he could, including the police commissioner, the education department and even the Governor General.

To date, Jim still hasn’t seen any action taken in his case. But he is undeterred. He told the Commissioner, ‘I’m a survivor and I intend to see this apology through and write my story’.

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