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Lynda's story

Lynda’s dad worked on the railways, and her mum was a homemaker. There were a lot of children in their regional Queensland home, and Lynda was the youngest. Both of her parents valued education highly, as they hadn’t had the opportunity to be well educated themselves.

In the late 1970s Lynda was in Year 5 at her local state school. Her teacher, Mr French, was new to the community, but he was well liked and seemed to fit in. He was the first person to show any attention to Lynda’s academic work, and her future. Being Aboriginal, Lynda and her family had experienced racism and discrimination, and she thinks her background stopped other teachers from taking an interest in her. Lynda was therefore very vulnerable to being groomed by French. He would tell her she was smart and that ‘the world was my oyster’. She started becoming proud of her academic work, and would talk to her parents about him.

French suggested a group of students and adults go to a camp during the school holidays. When it came time, he picked Lynda up in his car, saying they would collect others along the way. Instead, he took her to a house he owned. Lynda knew something was wrong and became agitated, and French told her to lie down and have a sleep to feel better.

He then came into the bedroom naked. ‘He just started to touch me, and put his fingers inside me. And then he raped me.’ Lynda cried during this assault, and afterwards, and he instructed her to have a shower. While she washed herself he stood and watched her, masturbating.

After this he promised to treat her to Chinese takeaway. On their way home from getting the food he pretended to have a heart attack in the car. When she attempted to help him, by taking over the steering, he molested her again and she jumped away from him. He then pulled over to a shop and bought her a dress, which he later took photos of her wearing. She doesn’t remember anything else about that night.

The next day they met up with some other adults and children, and went to the camp. However, Lynda and one other girl did not stay with the others, but with French in a separate dwelling. During this time Lynda witnessed French sexually abusing her friend, too. ‘I remember thinking, I’m glad it’s not me.’ The girls never spoke to each other about the abuse.

After the camp Lynda avoided French at school, although he would often try to speak with her. She remembers that he didn’t work there long. Lynda thinks her mother may have suspected something around this time, but she didn’t tell her about the abuse.

When Lynda was in high school her behaviour deteriorated. Drinking heavily, she became very aggressive and got into fights. She was often in trouble with the police, and was also very promiscuous. Her mother died when she was 17, after which she stopped caring about her life and future.

Lynda’s siblings became very concerned about her, as she dropped out of school, would not eat and just drink at the pub all day. She went to live with her brother and his family for a while, which helped her settle a bit.

Lynda got married and had kids, and disclosed the abuse to her husband when they had their first child, something which ‘gave her life meaning again’. Her behaviour was still quite erratic, although her husband was very supportive. They eventually separated after many years but maintain a good relationship.

When her children were at school, Lynda was very protective and would try to get work there so she could keep an eye on them. She also became interested in child protection, and did this kind of work in the community, even though it was sometimes very confronting.

She later found out that complaints had been made about French at the private school he was at immediately prior to hers. He had been dismissed, but the headmaster nonetheless gave him a good reference. This meant that he could still teach at other schools, giving him an opportunity for further offending.

Lynda recently made a report to police. By this time French had already been jailed for child sex offences. He is now elderly and living in another state, and the police have decided not to extradite him. Lynda is happy the police believed her statement, but is disappointed she will not get to face French in court. She has tried to take civil action, but has been advised she’s not eligible for victims of crime compensation.

Lynda has told her children about her experiences, although not in great detail, and has accessed counselling over the years. Her daughter asked how she would go speaking to the Royal Commission. ‘I said, it’s actually getting easier … If I don’t tell my story, and other people don’t tell their story, nothing will change. So that’s what I’m hoping to come out of this – a collective voice.’

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