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Leanne's story

Leanne believes it’s impossible to count the number of lives ruined by her former colleague at a school in regional New South Wales.

Roger Anderson was a popular music teacher, but within weeks of Leanne’s arrival in the 1980s, she noticed children behaving strangely around him.

‘Roger managed the combined primary and high school band, which was regarded by the Education Department as the jewel in its crown. It had an amazing reputation, and Roger would take the students on tour to perform all around the state.’

Leanne was aware that a number of students also took private music lessons with Roger both in and out of school hours.

She told the Commissioner, ‘He came to the door of my classroom one day asking to see a student for band practice, but Jade refused to go with him. She gave me this funny look so I told him she couldn’t go because we had a spelling test to do. Twice more he returned that morning, but I made it clear she was staying in class. When recess came, I took her outside and asked if she was okay. She broke down in tears and told me Mr Anderson had put his finger up her skirt the day before’.

Leanne told the Commissioner she reported Jade’s claims to the school principal, Larry, on the same day, but he’d dismissed it as nonsense.

‘He basically said children make stories up, that Roger wouldn’t do something like that, and I should just forget about it because the band was too important. When I told him I was taking the matter to the police he said, “You will not go to the police. If you do, you will lose your job”. I was determined to report it so I started to fill out my resignation.’

At that moment, another child’s parents entered the school office with two police officers to lay charges against Roger for abusing Jade and another female student.

‘So all of a sudden the band was in disarray and Larry came to me and said, “You’ve caused all this trouble, so you can take the kids on their tour”, so that’s what I did. On the last day of the tour, I saw Roger’s car parked outside a hall where the kids were to perform. I told the students to stay put on the bus and went inside the hall to ask him why he was there. He replied, “I’m here to see my kids perform”.’

After a short but heated exchange with Leanne, Roger agreed to leave and the concert went ahead.

‘On the drive back home, about seven or eight girls from the primary and high schools confided to me that they’d been abused by Roger. His court case went ahead not long after we got back. He was convicted and given a three-month good behaviour bond. Roger continued to work at private schools in the area, and was also still teaching students individually in his home.’

Leanne was accused by some other teachers of ‘ruining Roger’s career’. Reflecting back, however, she didn’t regret speaking up. Her resolve had been further strengthened following a chance meeting with a former student who disclosed that she’d been sexually abused.

Roger is now deceased, but Leanne fears the cases she knows about are just the tip of an iceberg.

‘I cringe to think how many lives this man has affected while the town condoned his behaviour. I’ve lived there for 34 years and seen the far-reaching effect abuse has on families. But as long as it’s swept under the rug and ignored, innocent victims won’t stand a chance in life and I think that’s a terrible loss for our society.’

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