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Noah Bryce's story

‘When you’re a young person … you’re still working out your own sense of identity and you don’t know what those boundaries [are], and what is appropriate, and what’s not. A teacher that’s very much in a position of trust, you take it for granted that they do know.’

Noah grew up in Queensland where he attended a state high school in the late 1970s. When he was 15, he and a group of boys from his class went on a weekend camping trip with one of their teachers.

‘From what I remember, [it] was not strictly part of our curriculum … but it was organised by Mr Hoffman through the school … We were 15 years old … and a camping trip sounded like fun.’

The group set off in Hoffman’s camper van on a Friday afternoon. ‘The place we stopped was not an official camping area. It was pretty secluded … On the trip we were just being silly teenagers. We were mooning cars … pulling our pants down and showing off our bottoms to other cars on the road.’

Noah recalled that Hoffman nearly ran the van off the road because he was watching the boys in the rear view mirror. ‘He was offering us money to keep carrying on. I thought it was a bit off that he was so interested in what we were doing and that he was encouraging us, throwing money to keep going, but I didn’t worry about it.’

Hoffman organised the sleeping arrangements, so that he would share a tent with two of the boys. Noah told the Commissioner that on the Saturday night he and his tent mates were sitting around the camp fire, talking. ‘We could hear all these sounds coming from Mr Hoffman’s tent. I heard like groaning and grunting noises.’

Noah and the other boys walked over to the tent to listen. ‘At the time I remember thinking the whole thing was a bit weird and it made myself and the other boys uncomfortable. We sort of formed the opinion at the time that there might have been something sexual going on, but being a teenage boy at that age, you didn’t want to think about it too much.’

The next day, Noah and his friends teased the two boys who had been in the tent with Hoffman, and they ‘said something about play-wrestling in their underwear’.

On the Sunday morning one of Noah’s tent mates came over to him. ‘He seemed quite upset and he said something about Mr Hoffman brushing up against him with no clothes on. Mr Hoffman was walking around the campsite naked and we all thought that was weird and it was making everyone uncomfortable.’

Later that day, when Noah was sitting on the ground, Hoffman walked past him, ‘putting his genitals at my eye level and I felt very uncomfortable about it. By [then] we were really a bit over it and we wanted to go home, and felt things had gotten a bit weird … It was my impression that Mr Hoffman was trying to encourage us to … go swimming naked’.

Noah told the Commissioner, ‘I can’t really say I noticed if [the two boys in the tent] were distressed about what happened at the time … Teenage boys are not very sensitive to the emotions of others’.

The group left the campsite and ‘there wasn’t any more carry-on in the car on the way home’. Noah didn’t speak to his parents about what had happened when they arrived home. ‘It was an era when you really didn’t talk about these sort of things. And certainly my father was a very traditional man, and you didn’t talk about these things.’

Looking back, Noah thinks, ‘I wish I had spoken to my parents in case something had happened to other children or young people. The main focus of this is really preventing anything from happening again’.

Looking back on the trip as an adult, Noah believes that, ‘In some ways, every boy on the trip had some sort of vulnerability or some trouble in his life … I do think Mr Hoffman might have targeted us to groom some of us, thinking we might be more vulnerable. However, that’s just my opinion’.

The police contacted Noah recently, after one of his former schoolmates decided to report Hoffman, and he provided them with a statement. ‘And that was hard, but it was a good thing to do. I feel as if each time I do something, you feel as though you’re moving towards a goal or something.’ Hoffman has been charged, but a trial date has yet to be set.

‘I know I brushed it [off] … and I thought it was nothing and I buried it a bit, but there’s times when it comes up. Even this brings it up a bit more. But thinking back, about how it does affect choices with relationships and other things that happen in your life as well.’

Noah told the Commissioner, ‘A lot of men cope with it by putting an emotional blanket, or drugs and alcohol on top of that and … it’s a bit like a hydra. It pops its head up … in other places. So maybe … if other people come forward … [it’s] a very helpful thing’.

Noah believes that it is important for people to speak up about the sexual abuse they experienced as a child. ‘If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your family and your relationship, or other children.’

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