‘I regret that I hadn’t have said something much earlier in the piece … I feel quite guilty that I hadn’t spoken out earlier.’
Kenton was in his last year at a state primary school in Queensland in 1984. It was well known that, each year, his new female teacher would single out a male pupil as her ‘teacher’s pet’.
‘Nothing sinister at the time. I didn’t think anything sinister about it until it happened to me. Retrospectively, it’s quite clear to me that this person was a predator … using her position of power to abuse kids in various forms or another.’
The teacher gave Kenton gifts, shared secrets and gave him special attention in the classroom. She hugged him and asked which of her outfits he liked best so she could wear it to please him. This behaviour was constant.
‘It was a secret that we had this sort of relationship going on that we wanted to keep from the other kids and from people at school and I felt part of that secret, you know. I felt that … yeah, I was special, for sure. Yeah, I was the chosen one for sure.’
The attention suddenly ended one day and the teacher was moved to a different school.
‘There was tears and “I can’t see you anymore”, you know. The relationship’s over sort of thing, “we’re breaking up”. Almost the girlfriend boyfriend breaking up.’
Kenton now understands that he was being groomed but it wasn’t until his own children started school in the mid-2000s that he began to reflect on the teacher and her behaviour towards him.
‘I think it was probably buried in the deep dark recesses of my mind and I went through various stages of my life where it wasn’t really a big issue for me and then things would happen like, you know, kids …
‘I knew this person was still teaching at the time and I thought well, it’s probably still going on ... There’d be no reason why it’s not going on. From what I had seen I can imagine it wasn’t dealt with ever.’
Kenton was then living in a different state and made a statement to his local police through their children’s sex crime unit. His allegations were taken seriously and his statement was sent to Queensland police.
‘The whole criminal aspect of it really didn’t become apparent to me until I went and spoke to the police about it … it’s talked about as being a criminal offence as opposed to just, you know, being a “teacher’s pet” or you know, some sort of innocuous term for it.’
He realised that it would be unlikely that charges would ever be laid against the woman.
‘I always suspected that I wouldn’t get anywhere with the police, to be honest … So long ago, difficult to prove, he said/she said, no corroborating witnesses … ’
What Kenton didn’t expect was that the Queensland police would pay such little attention to his claims.
‘It took me ages to even find out who was dealing with it ... There was no dedicated unit set up to deal with this or it didn’t go to a dedicated unit. It ended up going down to the local cop shop and being dealt with by some young constable.’
The fact that the perpetrator was female and that the abuse was viewed as not as serious as other cases meant that Kenton felt he wasn’t heard, despite a female constable having carriage of his case. But he was hopeful that he would receive a different reception from the Queensland Department of Education, especially as the woman was still teaching.
‘For me, it was all a matter of, “We’ll get that [police investigation] out of the way so the education department can get on with dealing with it”.’
But their response was frustrating. Kenton was given platitudes such as, ‘Society’s view of things was very different then and perhaps if it happened today it would be different’.
‘I kept saying to them, “Look, she’s still teaching … as far as you guys know this could be happening right now as I’m talking to you – this could be happening today to some other poor little kid”.’
The department’s investigation followed the police line that the woman had no case to answer.
‘The most disappointing part for me was the education department’s Standards and Integrity Unit and the way it was dealt with by them … these people should have been really attuned to this stuff. They should have been qualified. They should have had experience dealing with sexual offenders and they certainly should’ve taken it seriously and they didn’t.’
Kenton wrote to the Minister for Education about the department’s decision but to no avail. The department and the minister also failed to inform him that he could have his case and treatment reviewed for procedural fairness and also by the ombudsman.
‘I got nowhere and … they didn’t outline any sort of avenues of appeal.’
At no point was he offered counselling, support or an apology.
He had ‘promised myself that I would do what I could to make sure that it didn’t happen to anyone else’ and came to the Royal Commission to bring attention to his case and the unsatisfactory institutional responses to it.
The abuse and the complete failure of duty of care by the institutions, particularly the Queensland education department, have taken a toll on his life. Kenton lives with depression and experienced marital issues exacerbated by the frustrating pursuit of his abuser. His marriage has recently broken down.
‘All I wanted, I didn’t even care if she gets convicted or not, you know, all I want is for her to be removed from that situation so it can’t happen again.’