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Oscar Garth's story

When Oscar’s father moved interstate for work in the 1980s, Oscar was enrolled in a private boarding school in Queensland.

‘I can’t say I enjoyed it … There was quite a lot of bullying and stuff like that … older students, they’ve gone through the system and so they feel that it’s their turn to beat up and lord it over everybody else. So that’s just sort of how the system worked. So there wasn’t a lot of supports for new kids.’

Although Oscar wasn’t particularly affected by the bullying, he saw it happening to others and thought, ‘Can’t wait to get out of here’. Oscar was 15 when he went to the school, but there were younger boys, ‘who were like 12 years of age, leaving home, very vulnerable, homesick, the whole bit …’

The school counsellor, Doug Hanson, worked in the evenings, as well as during the day. ‘There were students who would go there regularly … He was probably rubbing his hands in glee, just going, “Well, things are set up beautifully for me, because I’ve got these kids who are just crying out for some sort of support and here I am”.’

Oscar doesn’t remember why he received a notice of appointment to see the counsellor. Nothing untoward happened during the first appointment. Hanson began by asking Oscar how his studies were going, and then talked about stress, and the importance of relaxation.

Hanson then began teaching Oscar some relaxation techniques. ‘Hypnotism was used to make me feel calm and relaxed … At some point he lifted my shirt up, pulled my shorts down, all the time talking calmly to me, [saying] it was important to be relaxed. He pushed and prodded firmly in the lower abdomen, groin area.’

After the hypnosis, Hanson ‘discussed masturbation and stress relief. Hanson directed me not to masturbate for one or two weeks, and made another appointment for me to see him at the end of the “non-masturbation period”’.

The next appointment began much the same as the first one. ‘After pulling down the pants, and the pushing and prodding, Hanson held my hand and used it to prod my genitals to arousal stage, all the time reassuring me to relax etc.’ Hanson then gave Oscar a towel and told him to masturbate and ejaculate into the towel. He would wait outside until Oscar had finished.

‘When he left the room, I pulled up my pants and sat, very confused, thinking of my response when he came back in. I eventually unlocked the door and explained that I could not do it. He accepted it, but another appointment was made for another time.’

In the next appointment ‘the same things occurred … Again I did not comply with “completing the job” for him and I explained that I did not feel comfortable with it. I made no further appointments’.

Oscar told the Commissioner that he decided to stop going to the appointments because, ‘I knew what was right. I suppose with my upbringing, you know … good morals and that sort of thing, and I knew what was right and what was wrong …

‘I didn’t question the hypnotism and the prodding and pushing and all that sort of stuff going on … but I was just was a bit puzzled and then when it came to … he wanted me to finish the job … I thought, “No, this is not appropriate”. I knew it wasn’t right because that’s private … not something you would be doing you know, in a guidance officer’s room.’

Oscar told the Commissioner, ‘I just feel so sad for some of these boys that weren’t strong and no doubt, things would’ve just escalated …’

Oscar felt he couldn’t report the abuse to other staff at the school. ‘Anything that was going on, you didn’t feel comfortable reporting, because otherwise that would make your life more difficult … Nothing wrong with people being strict, but you didn’t feel comfortable reporting anything. You just kept everything to yourself.’

Oscar now feels he should have said something. ‘I don’t know what I thought back then, apart from, I just knew it wasn’t right and I didn’t feel that I should, I could be saying anything, which in hindsight, it irks me because I wish I had, then other kids … lots of other kids hopefully wouldn’t have been affected, because that was back in [the 1980s].’

Hanson took his own life in the late 1990s, after he was accused of sexual offences against a child. Since then, many men and women have come forward to report sexual abuse at the hands of Hanson, at Oscar’s school and another school, over several decades.

When Oscar heard about Hanson’s death, it triggered memories of his own abuse. ‘I forgot about it … I think until [Hanson’s death] came up, so it must have been something that triggered it.

‘When something like that comes up, or there’s a Royal Commission, or there’s something to do with George Pell, or whatever, it brings it back and you just have angry feelings about what went on, not necessarily for me, but just anger for the situation … I don’t feel as though I’m affected at all. I just get, I feel angry when something reminds me, that’s all.’

Oscar came forward to the Royal Commission because, ‘I thought, people need to know the stories and if people like me … didn’t come forward and say something, then you could have hundreds of students out there who have been affected … and they might say there were [only] 70 boys, because they don’t know the true extent of it. So I thought, I need to do my bit …’

Oscar commented, ‘Hopefully these schools are changing their systems, becoming more accountable, supporting kids, and these scumbags can’t exist in those environments’.

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