‘It took me more than 40 years to realise that I’ve been feeling guilty.’
Kellie’s family were devout Lutherans and the religion was an integral part of her life. From a young age she had been taught to respect her elders and do what she was told, both in her family life and throughout her time in school.
In the 1960s, when Kellie was five, she was enrolled in a Queensland Lutheran school. The teachers followed a strict schedule and religious studies were an fundamental part of the school’s foundations. The children attended chapel and sat in religion class every week.
When Kellie was 15 the school announced a camp that ran over the summer break. The camp was a fairly new program and located far away from the school. She and a few friends signed up and she was very excited about going.
Kellie remembers the camp as an authentic learning experience. The students were kept busy with hands-on tasks and participated in outdoor activities. She learned many practical life skills and made deeper friendships with her peers, and it is an experience she has never forgotten.
The students were separated into groups that were each supervised by a camp official. Kellie liked her supervisor, William Rees, who was a charismatic man and would participate in practical jokes.
Rees gave Kellie and a friend an opportunity to visit the camp’s sauna, which was located away from the camp site. Some of the older students said this was a rare treat and made a huge deal about the girls going, and Kellie felt privileged and special.
In the evening Kellie and her friend went to the sauna. They met Rees there and changed into their bathing suits before getting into the sauna.
When Kellie wasn’t looking Rees came up from behind her and touched her breasts. She was frozen with fear, and saw that Rees did the same thing to her friend. Both girls locked eyes and said nothing.
Kellie left the sauna with her friend and they never mentioned the incident again. She chose to forget what had happened and didn’t report it to anyone. After the camp concluded she became very wary of men. She kept her head down at school and continued studying in silence.
‘I just knew I couldn’t do or say anything about it.’
When Kellie was 17 a girl flushed a used sanitary pad down the toilet at school and this caused it to block. A female staff member forced all the girls to pull down their pants to identify who was menstruating. Kellie had thought about disclosing the abuse by Rees to this particular teacher, but after this she kept silent.
Kellie’s disclosure to the Royal Commission was the first time she had discussed the abuse. She has since told her family, which she found comforting. Rees died many years ago and she is unsure whether to report the abuse to the police.