Rob Clifford's story

Rob was a student at a Sydney Marist Brothers high school for four years in the 1970s. One of the teachers, Mr Khoury, was known amongst the boys as a ‘child molester’ who was often ‘up to no good’.

At one time Khoury asked for help packing boxes on the weekend because he was moving house, but most boys like Rob ‘knew it was a ruse’ and made up excuses not to go.

Rob had already had the experience of Khoury touching him. The teacher often organised activities after hours with students and would drive them home afterwards. Rob was the last to be dropped off and one night Khoury pulled into a service station and lent across to him in the front passenger seat.

‘He touched my crutch and I opened the door to get out of the car and he took out $10 from his wallet, put it on the dash, and said, “Look, if I do anything you don’t like, that $10 is yours”.’

Ten dollars ‘was a lot of money’, Rob said, and he grabbed it and opened the car door. Khoury then took hold of his arm and said he’d drive him home.

‘And he took the 10 bucks off me and then he took me home, and that’s the whole incident with regard to myself.’

Later Rob found out that a fellow student, James, had agreed to help Khoury pack up his house. Other students had asked James if anything had happened and he’d replied that nothing had. However, at some stage the father of another student had been told his son had been abused by Khoury. The man went to the school ‘and wanted to tear the guy apart’.

Soon afterwards the boys were asked to report anything that had occurred with Khoury. At that point James told his friends ‘something did happen’, and he disclosed it to the principal.

Khoury disappeared from the Marist Brothers’ school. A little while later, when Rob bumped into him in a shop, he said that he was now teaching at a nearby state school.

‘I’ve always ever since then thought, you know, the guy should be in jail. As I understand it, the school accepted his resignation. He was a lay teacher so he just went back on the job market and found a job.’

Rob didn’t feel that what Khoury had done had affected him. He’d told his wife early in their relationship and later his daughters.

‘I’ve dined out on the story once or twice in certain circumstances’, he said. ‘And I think because of that that’s helped me manage any sort of – I don’t think there’s any adverse effects at all, and the fact that I was open and, you know, all my brothers and sisters know about it, so I’ve never been ashamed, I’ve never felt that I was at fault in any way, shape or form.’

He had concerns about James though, as well as several other boys who’d gone to the principal about Khoury.

In the 90s Rob reported the teacher to an inquiry that he thought was centred around child sexual abuse and police corruption.

‘I just wanted to get it out there because … if [the other students] had come forward and I can help them by supporting their stories, or if this guy, Mr Khoury, is not being held accountable, they’re the two reasons that I’m here, and they’re the reasons that I told the story back in the 1990s.’

Rob believes there are still areas of risk in organisations looking after vulnerable children.

‘These places need to be open, transparent, and I think in history we’ve always considered – you know, I grew up where priests, brothers, doctors, those professionals, they were above reproach. I think we’re past that now, but I don’t know that we’ve gone far enough down the track.’


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