A phone call that came ‘out of the blue’ triggered painful memories for Noel that dated back to the late 1960s.
He told the Commissioner that in his second year at a Sydney state high school, one of his teachers began sexually abusing him.
‘Mr Marshall was also one of the cricket masters and I was a good cricketer. He was a very intimidating man, used to still wear his university gown, and was prone to fits of rage if you didn’t get your work right. As a 13-year-old I was very keen to please him.’
For ‘the best part’ of two years Noel said Marshall targeted him for sexual abuse.
‘There was a part of me that knew it was wrong, but I’d seen this guy march out, get the cane and hit people, or get a ruler and whack them over the knuckles. Getting the cane wasn’t unusual, and I was scared of him.’
When Noel ‘physically matured’ at 16, he recalled standing up to his teacher, and the abuse stopped.
‘I told Marshall to leave me alone.
'At the end of that year, I was really struggling with my schoolwork, it was affecting me. At the end of the day, I had to get out of the school, I was just really uncomfortable because I still had to pass him in the corridor.’
Noel said his parents never understood why he wanted to change schools, and he could never bring himself to tell them the reason.
‘I never said boo to my parents or anyone because I would have thought I’d let them down by allowing this to happen to me. Almost in a way you bring shame on them because you should never have allowed yourself to be put in this situation. You’re 13 and you want to play cricket, and you want to please this guy, because he’s a bully.’
Noel went on to marry and have children, and said his first wife of more than 20 years was never aware of his abuse.
It was only when the call came through unexpectedly from New South Wales Police in the late 1990s that he felt compelled to confide in the woman who would later become his second wife.
‘The inspector told me they were investigating Marshall, and asked if I would provide a confidential interview in relation to it, and I did. When it came up, it opened old wounds but I thought it was the right thing to do, if it was going to help bring this guy to justice.’
He believes his name was given to the police by another former student.
‘I thought about it later and remembered attending a school reunion in the early 1980s where some of my mates referred to me as the “bum boy” of Marshall, and I realised then that my abuse had been common knowledge.’
During the call with the detective, Noel agreed to give evidence, if needed, under a pseudonym. A year later, he was contacted again and told Marshall had been charged with over 50 counts of child abuse relating to almost a dozen boys over 30 years. All the boys were from Noel’s high school.
‘About 12 months on, he rang me again to say Marshall had been granted bail, and while out on bail, he’d committed suicide.’
Noel attempted to make a claim for compensation, but was given legal advice that it would be ‘like pulling teeth’ so gave up his pursuit.
‘My understanding is the school said, “No one reported it, we have no knowledge, weren’t aware of it”. I do feel a bit robbed of justice.’
He described his life as being ‘fruitful and happy’, and Noel has enjoyed success in business.
‘I’m pretty tough, so I’ve got through it, but that doesn’t undermine the fact it’s still in the back of my mind and I want an apology. I’m financially independent, I wasn’t looking for a monetary response. But I think they had an obligation to say, “You were abused under our watch at a state school and we have an obligation to recognise that”.’