Maxine Emma's story

In the 1990s, Maxine and her younger brother, Heath, attended a co-educational Anglican school in Queensland.

Maxine was bullied and sexually harassed at the school, so she attended some sessions with the school counsellor. During her second appointment, the counsellor, Peter Ray, sexually abused Maxine, touching her on the breasts and pelvic area. She did not return to see him.

Maxine told one or two of her friends that ‘someone had touched my boobs’, but she didn’t tell them who it was. When another female student mentioned being touched by Ray, her fellow students didn’t believe her.

‘Unfortunately, it was almost a joke that no one believed … Everyone says, “A friend of a friend” did this, or “It happened to a friend of a friend”, so no one actually believes that someone like that could do something like that.’

A young teacher was passing the group and overheard the discussion about Ray. He said to them, ‘Don’t dismiss anything someone says about Ray. Why do you think [the principal] got him a job here?’ The teacher had been a student at another school, where Ray had been teaching. Rumours about Ray abusing children were rife, and he was forced to leave that school.

‘The thing that makes me angry, is the fact that [the principal of my school] knew. I know he knew and he allowed it to keep going. And he didn’t just allow it to keep going, he put the fire out in one school, by introducing a whole new load of people to the situation.’

When Maxine’s younger brother Heath started at the school in Grade 7, he was ‘the fat, shy kid, that had a close group of friends … He was proud to be in the choir … Grade 8, he just seemed to be, I guess, a slightly older version of himself … and then by Grade 9, he was so much of a different person’.

Heath was ‘angry and violent and … [once] he actually hit me so hard, I got a black eye. He always said he wanted to kill me because I’m the favourite, and why am I the favourite, and why do I get away with things?’

Maxine recalled, ‘He used to do things like turn up his stereo so that it was so loud, and lock the door and then jump out the window … Even doctors said, “If we didn’t know that you had another child that was actually not such a troublemaker, we would consider this to be a family problem”’.

Maxine told the Commissioner that ‘I’ve never seen a change like that anywhere, not even in stupid soap operas. I’ve not seen that happen’. Eventually, when Maxine was starting Grade 12, their parents decided to send Heath on a 12-month student exchange.

‘Because things at home were so bad, I think they thought … maybe he’ll grow up or you know, experience from it, or enjoy it or have some fun or something. But it also gave me the year to finish.’

Maxine finished school and went to university. She went home to her parents’ house one night when she was 18 or 19. ‘It was very dark and as I pulled into the driveway … there’s Heath and one of his friends from primary school, sitting in the driveway, and they were as drunk as skunks. They were absolutely rotten drunk.’

Heath got into the car with Maxine and he said to her, ‘Why didn’t you tell me … Why didn’t you tell me about that effing paedophile?’ Maxine doesn’t know if Heath knew about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of Ray, but from what he said to her that night, it is possible that he did.

After Peter Ray was charged with sexual offences against children in the late 1990s, he committed suicide. At his funeral and at a school assembly, the principal spoke about their ‘beloved and well-loved counsellor’ and his ‘untimely passing’.

Heath never went back to the Anglican school. He was sent to a number of other schools, but was repeatedly expelled. ‘I think he did finally get his … Year 10 certificate … but not at a normal school.’

Although he managed to get a couple of jobs, Heath had to give up work after an accident. He also had significant mental health issues, and was highly medicated. He died of natural causes in his 30s.

‘[I’ve] been seeing a psychologist on and off, and this sounds really, really condescending, but it got to the point where if I was told to provide positive affirmations to myself in a mirror one more time, I thought I would throw up … I just thought I was paying a lot of money to hear something that you can read in a bloody Oprah magazine.’

Maxine told the Commissioner, ‘You can’t go back and change [things]. Part of my problem now is that I literally dream about what I should have done …’

Maxine came to the Royal Commission to speak on behalf of both herself and her brother. ‘I got off lightly, but … as it said in the brochure I got, about the impact on families, and that has been something that has been of extreme concern … My brother died …

‘[I’m] not looking for anything out of this. That’s why it’s important for me to say what I believe is the best truth I can represent, with no gain for me by doing so.’

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