Pringle vin­di­cated as teen ad­mits mak­ing up as­sault

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - SAM SMALLBONE

THE Aus­tralian Muster Ex­pe­ri­ence pro­gram which teaches dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents how to be jacka­roos will re­sume af­ter a teenager who claimed he was as­saulted by owner Gor­don Pringle re­tracted the al­le­ga­tion.

Po­lice and the Fed­eral Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions which were made last year by five stu­dents from Djar­ra­gun Col­lege’s Wangetti cam­pus sent to the six-month AME pro­gram at Mount Mul­li­gan, owned and op­er­ated by lo­cal tourism iden­tity Gor­don Pringle.

The five stu­dents, who were among a group of 16 teenagers from the col­lege tak­ing part in the pro­gram, sparked an overnight search in­volv­ing a he­li­copter af­ter run­ning into the bush last year.

Af­ter be­ing found, the boys made al­le­ga­tions of be­ing as­saulted to Cairns po­lice and the jacka­roo pro­gram col­lapsed.

Djar­ra­gun prin­ci­pal Jean Illing­worth said the pro­gram at Mount Mul­li­gan had ceased when she learned none of the op­er­a­tors held a Blue Card re­quired to work with chil­dren.

“The young men in at­ten­dance at the Aus­tralian Muster Ex­pe­ri­ence were nonaca­demic stu­dents whose cir­cum­stance and life­style does not fit with a clas­sic ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

“The Aus­tralian Muster Ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vided a pro­gram that boosted self-es­teem and life skills.”

Ms Illing­worth said one of the stu­dents at the cen­tre of the in­ci­dent has pro­vided a signed state­ment out­lin­ing the rea­sons for fab­ri­cat­ing the as­sault claim against Mr Pringle.

“The stu­dent in ques­tion is very re­morse­ful but un­for­tu­nately has been in­car­cer­ated (for an­other mat­ter),” she said.

“I want to say that I did not tell the truth about what hap­pened in the AME pro­gram at Mt Mul­li­gan,” the stu­dent wrote.

“When the po­lice ques­tioned me I was re­ally scared as I thought I was go­ing to be sent to jail be­cause I was on a good be­hav­iour or­der.

“So I made up a story to get Gor­don into trou­ble in­stead of us boys.

“The boys fol­lowed me and told the same lies.

“I am very sorry about what I did and I hope that I can come back to Djar­ra­gun to fin­ish my ed­u­ca­tion.”

Mr Pringle yes­ter­day said he jacka­roo pro­gram would re­turn at Mount Mul­li­gan but he could not make any fur­ther com­ments on the is­sue un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­pleted.

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