School Students Tell Of Sex Abuse

Former students at Geelong Grammar School speak tell Royal Commission of sex abuse

Geelong Grammar School has been the focus of child abuse Royal Commission hearings.

Geelong Grammar School has been the focus of child abuse Royal Commission hearings. Source: Supplied

PRINCE Charles loved his time there, but others found the Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School to be tough and brutal, even comparing it to the novel Lord of the Flies.

Some former students recall being too afraid to tell anyone about bullying or sexual abuse, or being confronted by an institution they say was more worried about damage to its reputation than its students.

Sent to Geelong Grammar as a 10-year-old boarder in 1969, BKO recalls a strict and authoritarian English boarding school.

Speaking about his year at the 325-hectare Timbertop rural campus in 1973, BKO drew parallels with William Golding’s classic novel where a group of marooned schoolboys turn on each other and descend into barbarity.

The witness described it as an unusual and “quite a brutal” environment.

“You’re out in the bush with 14 other boys in your unit and you live very closely with those boys,” he told the child abuse royal commission.

“At Timbertop you’re forced together and it’s a Lord of the Flies type situation at times.”

BKO said he didn’t feel vengeful towards the school for the sexual abuse he suffered, but criticised how it handled his complaint about being fondled during a hypnosis session with chaplain Rev John Davison.

BKO told his maths teacher Jonathan Harvey — later convicted for abusing a student himself — and found the process very threatening, saying he was made to feel that he was wrong.

“I know the school was only concerned about avoiding a scandal,” BKO told the royal commission on Wednesday.

“I got the impression that the school simply wanted the issue to vanish.” A former preschool teacher whose son was also abused at Geelong Grammar said she was angry that Mr Harvey was not dismissed when they took their complaint to the then principal John Lewis.

“My understanding was that it needed to be kept quiet and that if I said anything further my job would be threatened,” she told the commission.

“I felt quite angry that the school didn’t look at this situation very well. I felt that they were only interested in protecting Jonathan Harvey and the reputation of the school.” The commission heard Mr Harvey, who will himself give evidence, denied indecently touching the son BKM, while Mr Lewis regretted that he did not properly deal with the report.

Two abuse victims told the commission they received $100,000 settlements of civil claims against Geelong Grammar.

One, Philip Constable, said he was sexually abused by teacher and boarding house master Graham Leslie Dennis on most nights for three years from the time he was eight in 1956.

Another former student, Luke Benson, has no memory of being sexually abused by Highton House live-in boarding house assistant Philippe Trutmann, a man he saw as a father figure.

Mr Benson said police told him in 2005 that Mr Trutmann, who abused 40 students between 1985 and 1996, had admitted sexually abusing him 30 to 40 times over a two-year period.

“The police told me that Trutmann had reviewed school yearbooks and identified from photographs the boys he had abused.”