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Walker's story

In the late 70s and early 80s Walker attended a Catholic primary school in north-western Victoria. In Year 6 he had a new teacher, Craig Leske.

‘Everyone loved him, because he was outgoing, family man, all these kids. You know, he played the guitar in church and sung and done sport. Everyone thought he was a fantastic person.

‘I thought he was a great guy, too.’

Leske immediately began grooming students. ‘He took a lot of boys under his wing and took a real interest in our lives away from school’, Walker wrote in a statement provided to the Royal Commission.

One day early in the year, when Walker was asked to stay behind after class, Leske sexually abused him. He touched Walker’s genitals and tried to get him aroused, then grabbed the boy’s hand and placed in on his own genitals. ‘He had a smirk on his face and looked like he was really enjoying himself’, Walker wrote.

He only managed to get away because someone came into the room and Leske backed off. He wrote that the teacher later said to him, ‘That was enjoyable, wasn’t it?’

Over the rest of the year, Walker was sexually abused by Leske on numerous occasions. Afterwards, he’d always give the same warning: ‘They won’t believe you, I am a teacher’.

Walker wrote, ‘I remember thinking Mr Leske was right and that no one would believe me because I was a prick of a kid and … [he] was so loved and respected in the community. I felt like he had control of me.

‘I hated the things he made me do and hated not being able to tell anyone about it.’

On his last day of primary school Walker had one final encounter with the teacher. ‘I recall this day and Mr Leske coming up behind me and putting his arm around my shoulder. He leant into me and said, “You won’t say anything, will you?” and “You enjoyed it too, no one will believe you”.’

From high school and onto his adult life Walker said that he was ‘haunted’ by memories of the abuse. ‘Being a male and not talking I bottled it all up … but yeah, it kept popping its ugly head every now and then, and created other issues.

‘I turned into a different person, basically. I led a double life … gambling, become a liar over the years, done stuff I shouldn’t have done and paid the price for that.’

In his early 40s, Walker reached his lowest point. ‘I put my kids through an absolute nightmare in the last three years. I wrote them suicide notes and everything.’

But, after trying to end his life, Walker started counselling. He was then able to talk about the abuse with his wife and eldest children, his mother and siblings. He also went to the police. ‘I found enough strength to deal with it. And I haven’t let it go either, that’s why I keep pursuing it.’

When Walker came to the Royal Commission, Craig Leske had been charged with a number of child sex offences involving several different boys. ‘Everywhere he’s been, he’s abused’, Walker said.

‘I know of two others but they don’t really want to come forward. They feel ashamed, embarrassed. They reckon they’ve dealt with it but I don’t think they have. I thought I’d dealt with it, too.’

With regular counselling, Walker is slowly healing. ‘Some days I feel like … I wish I could just close my eyes and that’d be it. Other days I feel really good. It’s just like a real sort of merry-go-round at the moment.’

And, after years of pain, his relationship with his wife and kids has never been better.

‘After all this, we all sit around and have tea of a night and discuss issues and anything we want to talk about. We’d rather throw it on the table, don’t hide it just let it all rip. It’s really good.

‘Pretty lucky to have them, they’ve been sort of my rock I suppose. And I’ve got some good friends. It’s like anything, when something bad happens you know who your friends are.’

With the help of a lawyer, Walker is also looking into making a claim for compensation. He said that any money he receives will go towards his children’s future.

And with that in mind Walker recommended that schools have what he called a ‘safety house’, where the students can access email or a phone to confidentially report anything inappropriate. With the Royal Commission and movies like Spotlight raising awareness, he said that ‘the wheel’s turning in the right direction now’.

When he spoke to the Commissioner, Walker was getting ready to look Leske in the eye in court. ‘I want my justice, I want my bit of time to get rid of this garbage that I’ve been carrying around from this monster and move forward. And I’m nearly there.’

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