Samantha estimated that her son Jordan was abused by Owen Greenwood, the school bus driver, over a period of eight weeks in the 2010s.
She said Jordan’s behaviour changed over this time as he went from being a happy-go-lucky six-year-old to acting out aggressively. He’d complained of having a sore bottom and had been checked by his parents and taken to a doctor, but no one could find a reason for his discomfort.
With two younger children, Samantha and her husband were dependent on the bus to take Jordan, who had an intellectual disability, to the special needs class at his mainstream primary school. Greenwood drove the bus for two school terms. During this time Samantha said he sexually abused six of eight children in Jordan’s class, as well as a boy from another class.
Samantha told the Commissioner that Jordan was the youngest on the bus, and first on and last off. She said some mornings she’d make Greenwood a coffee. The children transported on the bus had a range of disabilities, and Jordan’s speech was limited.
One day, his teacher asked him what was troubling him and Jordan ‘pointed to his penis and his mouth and his bum’, and then pulled his pants down in the middle of the playground.
Taken aside, Jordan told teachers the bus driver was hurting him. School staff rang Samantha and then notified the police. That afternoon, Greenwood came to the school for the regular home run. Unbeknown to the Education Department, the company contracted by the school to do the bus run had sub-contracted it to another company, and the message not to send Greenwood hadn’t got through.
Samantha said as Greenwood was in the playground with children running around him, she implored the police officers who’d arrived to get a report to arrest him. Greenwood was taken in for questioning and over the next week, further incidents of sexual abuse came to be reported by parents of children on the bus.
Jordan was taken to the children’s hospital for medical examination and further questioning by staff of the Child Protection Unit. ‘Jordan was taken into a room with a psychologist and a two-way police mirror which I felt – I just didn’t want to leave him with a stranger’, Samantha said. ‘He had already been through something so traumatic, to do that again to him was difficult for us and that went for over an hour or so. Then he was subjected to a medical examination which I don’t have any information on – that was all kept with the child protection unit.’
Some months later, Samantha was told by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) staff that they wouldn’t be pursuing charges against Greenwood in relation to Jordan. ‘Unfortunately for us, because my son was not verbal enough and wasn’t seen as a credible witness the charges relating to him were dropped and same with another little boy, and so that’s when I wrote a letter to the DPP to have a senior person look at the case.’
She said charges regarding five other children were dropped for the same reason, and Greenwood was eventually acquitted of all charges.
For a while, Samantha took Jordan to see a counsellor but she found that he’d be worse after the appointments, acting out in sexualised behaviour with other children. She finally got him a dog, ‘someone to love, someone to help with his bed wetting and his nightmares, the tooth grinding, you know’, and that helped him enormously.
Samantha told the Commissioner that she may never know the full extent of her son’s abuse, and she wasn’t hopeful of seeing justice in his case. She recommended changes to laws and the system and processes for everyone reporting child sexual abuse, particularly those with a disability.
Fourteen months after Jordan’s report, police conducted a door knock of residents opposite the park where some of the abuse occurred but no further information was elicited. Samantha thought the time interval was too long for people to have remembered anything.
The Child Protection Unit had given parents a list of counsellors to contact, but all had waiting lists of up to six months. She regretted that they didn’t have specialist staff like speech therapists or others with experience with working with children with disabilities who might have been able to help with the evidence-gathering and court process.
Despite the approaches to government by her and other parents, Samantha wasn’t confident that much had changed. ‘I mean at the moment [the state] is full of it, you know, there are always these cases with the school, the Education Department covering up stuff and to us it’s like a kick in the face, you know, it’s more frequent now.’