The primary school June attended in Victoria had only one classroom and children were divided into two aggregate classes. From the ages of eight to 12, June was taught by Mr Murray, who positioned his desk at the back of the room so that children and the other teacher were facing the other way.
Many children, including June, were sexually abused by Murray. He would call them to his desk and touch, grope and digitally penetrate them. The abuse only stopped after one girl’s mother reported him to police and he was charged with sexual offences and left the school.
In the late 1960s, soon after the allegations were made, the case went to court, but was dismissed by the judge who said the statements of three girls sounded alike and they’d ‘made the story up’.
Under questioning by Victoria Police, June denied Murray had sexually abused her, because she would have to disclose that she was also being sexually abused by her father, uncle and brother. Her father had told her no one would believe her if she did say anything.
‘When the teacher got off that was more leverage’, she said. ‘It sort of intertwined – if the teacher got away with it, how am I going to say something about my father? And then when my brother starting abusing me the same sort of thing cropped up in my mind. And how’s Mum going to raise the children on her own?’
June told the Commissioner that her difficulty with learning was compounded by her father’s belief that girls didn’t need an education. She was delighted when the new teacher recognised she was dyslexic and sought appropriate support. ‘Someone showed interest. Do you know what that feels like? … I could read a book. I could get a book and then write it. Then I wanted to write it correctly.’
In her early 20s, June was asked by her mother whether she thought her father was sexually abusing her younger sister. June answered no. Teachers at the school had expressed concerns this was the case. Confronted by his wife, June’s father confessed to the abuse and was ejected from the house. Until his death in 2000, he continued to stalk the family, in spite of them moving to different states and taking out apprehended violence orders. June wanted to report his sexual abuse to police but was told by her mother and sister that they wouldn’t make statements nor corroborate any that she made.
June said the abuse she’d encountered in childhood ‘melded in’ and made it hard for her to distinguish their impacts separately. She had significant physical and mental health problems and still only slept during the day because night was when the familial sexual abuse occurred.
Her father’s stalking behaviour in large part caused the end of her first marriage. While she’d spoken in general terms about the sexual abuse with her current husband, she was disappointed by a recent comment he’d made suggesting it was time she ‘got over’ it and she ‘should just be letting it go’. June told him how much he’d hurt her and he apologised, saying he didn’t mean to. She attributed the comment to him being 10 years her senior and of a generation where difficult subjects were ‘pushed under the carpet’.
In the previous year, she’d rung several of her primary school ex-classmates and encouraged them to tell their stories to the Royal Commission. She said she was glad she’d come because ‘it needed to be said’.