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Joy Susan's story

Joy grew up in the 1950s in a small town in Tasmania. Her early childhood was ‘fabulous. Loved it. Had a wonderful time. Very happy, doting parents. They were strict in their own way, but we had a fabulous time’. The community they lived in was very religious.

Mr Bishop, the headmaster at Joy’s primary school, was also her Grade 6 teacher. He was ‘a really nice person. Everybody liked him. And all through primary school, he was a great teacher and a lovely guy. Until he started fondling us all in Grade 6’. Joy told the Commissioner, ‘Pity he was such a nice bloke. I could hate him better’.

At 10, Joy was young for her class, but she was an ‘early developer’. Mr Bishop would touch Joy’s breasts while he was leaning over her, marking her work, ‘especially maths’. Joy told the Commissioner that she has had a problem with maths ever since. ‘It’s always there. I don’t think about it every time I try and do maths, but there’s this strange mental block … top of the school in a lot of classes. Maths, I was in the lowest strand.’

The abuse took place ‘in the classroom. Sitting right there with 30 other kids in the room. He’d come round helping people … and his hand’d be there while he was going, “Now look, you got that wrong. What is …” and you’re supposed to think of it while someone’s … and it wasn’t only me. I didn’t really know for sure how many other girls, but … other than you heard around the place, “Oh, you too?” At least half a dozen girls who were early developers’.

Joy told the Commissioner that her strict upbringing was ‘one of the problems. You don’t ever tell your parents what was going on at school because you were always told that adults are always right and you never answer back and you always … the teacher’s never wrong. So no one ever said anything’.

A couple of years after Joy left the primary school, another girl came forward to report Mr Bishop. Her father went to the police, the school and the media, but nothing happened. Nobody took any notice and everyone in the town sympathised with the teacher. The family who reported him was ostracised.

‘He stayed there. And the community … When there was some kind of ruckus about, “Ooh, there’s been rumours”, everyone, including the church communities … they in particular were the ones who went, “Couldn’t possibly be true” and they were the ones who stuck by and no one ever …’

Joy believes that at some stage there must have been an investigation because although Mr Bishop remained at the school for quite a few years, he was eventually moved to a school some distance away, and he was demoted. But earlier on, before that – ‘at that point, why wasn’t more done?’

The abuse she experienced has had little impact on Joy’s adult life. ‘Because all he ever did to me was play with my boobs … well, there were other girls that apparently he fondled legs and thighs. Whether he got any further … and there’s other stories about his daughter … Yes, some people get just as upset by that, as much worse, but I somehow didn’t … I’ve had pretty happy, normal kind of relationships and I don’t lie there thinking about that. I haven’t been deeply damaged by it.’

Joy came to the Royal Commission because even though the abuse she experienced did not have a negative impact on her life, she feels that the Education Department should be told that ‘This is what went on. You didn’t react correctly. Obviously there were complaints because he was moved’. She likens this to priests who were moved from parish to parish after abusing children. ‘Move ‘em on. Ship ‘em out. Then they’ve done it to another bunch of kids.’

Joy told the Commissioner, ‘I’m not here to say, “Help me”, I’m here to say, “This happened and nothing was done about it”’.

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