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Nathan's story

In the 2010s, Nathan discovered a series of text messages sent by his daughter to the sports coach at her Seventh Day Adventist school.

After reading them, Nathan confronted the coach.

‘Toby denied there was anything going on with Emily, and put it down to a schoolgirl crush. Deep down I suspected he wasn’t telling the truth, but I couldn’t be sure and didn’t want to risk this coach being sacked and having his name forever tarnished if he was innocent, so I accepted his explanation.’

Nathan told the Commissioner that eight months later his wife Peta discovered another text exchange between Toby and Emily, as well as images that rang alarm bells.

‘It was obvious she was being groomed to take part in sexual acts with him, and most of his texts had come late at night or early in the morning when he’d have known Emily would most likely be alone.’

Nathan reported his suspicions of abuse to the school principal later that morning.

‘The principal seemed pretty shocked but was very supportive, and suspended the coach that day. He then arranged for my wife and I to attend a police interview where we were told the coach couldn’t be charged, because our daughter was over the age of consent by … law so therefore his actions weren’t criminal.’

Though disappointed in the outcome of their meeting with police, Nathan and Peta’s concern turned to the wellbeing of other students in Toby’s team.

‘That coach had been with the school for five years, so who would know how many other 14, 15 or 16 year old girls he’d managed to groom and sexually abuse in that time, right under the nose of other teachers and senior members of the Church. I pushed for an investigation so other victims would have an opportunity to come forward, but that never happened.’

Around the same time, the school principal contacted a senior member of the state Seventh Day Adventist Church, who visited the school to interview Emily.

‘He seemed mainly interested in establishing Emily’s age when Toby sexually abused her for the first time. They knew if she was 15, it would have been a crime, and that would have made them look bad. Looking back, I think the school was more interested in protecting its reputation than Emily’s wellbeing.’

Within a couple of weeks, Toby had been dismissed. Parents received a letter stating that he’d left for ‘private and personal reasons’ and that his departure was ‘regrettable’, something Nathan found unacceptable.

‘The letter demonstrated the school’s complete denial, and fear of the reaction from the school community if parents found out the truth. There wasn’t a hint of concern that a teacher had been taking advantage of a student in their school, where parents are thinking their children are safe and well cared for.’

In the weeks after Toby’s departure, the principal visited Nathan’s family a few times and advised their school fees would be taken care of for the remainder of the school year.

‘He seemed keen for us to forget that our daughter was sexually abused, and would say things like, “This too shall pass”, or suggest we were looking for answers that weren’t there.’

A few weeks before Nathan came to the Royal Commission, Emily confided to him that she was still recovering from the hurt she experienced as a victim of sexual abuse.

‘She went to sleep and woke up a different person the day after she was abused, and will never be the same again. She’s suffered depression, she’s been suicidal. [Toby] breached our trust in him over and over again and he may have lost his job for it, but Emily’s the one who’s ended up paying the true price.’

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