TEEN SEX PAY­OUTS

Ex­clu­sive: State compo for school vic­tims

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - ANNABEL HEN­NESSY

THE NSW gov­ern­ment is ne­go­ti­at­ing com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments for women who were preyed upon as teens by their teach­ers at high schools on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches in the ’80s.

The Teacher’s Pet pod­cast series ex­posed the seedy un­der­belly of teach­er­stu­dent re­la­tion­ships dur­ing this pe­riod and The Satur­day Tele­graph can now re­veal that law firm Mau­rice Black­burn is act­ing for women who claim they were vic­tims of this very cul­ture.

It is un­der­stood there are sev­eral women, in­clud­ing at least one who went to Cromer High, the school where then­teacher and the sub­ject of the pod­cast Chris Daw­son had an open af­fair with 16year-old Joanne Cur­tis. On Thurs­day Daw­son — who is not the sub­ject of the com­pen­sa­tion claims — was charged with the mur­der of his wife Lyn, who van­ished in 1982. Ex-stu­dents of Cromer High in the ’80s said they were hope­ful the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment would give pay­outs to vic­tims.

THE state gov­ern­ment is ne­go­ti­at­ing com­pen­sa­tion pay­ments for women preyed upon as teenagers by their teach­ers at high schools on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches in the 1980s. The Satur­day Tele­graph can re­veal law firm Mau­rice Black­burn is act­ing for sev­eral women who claim they were vic­tims of a cul­ture that al­lowed male teach­ers to have sex­ual re­la­tion­ships with girls in their classes as school of­fi­cials turned a blind eye. This seedy un­der­belly was ex­posed in News Corp pod­cast series The Teacher’s Pet, which in­ves­ti­gated the al­leged mur­der of Lyn Daw­son by her hus­band Chris, who then moved his school­girl lover into their home just two days af­ter his wife van­ished in 1982. The Tele­graph un­der­stands there are sev­eral claimants, in­clud­ing at least one who went to Cromer High, the school where Daw­son had an open af­fair with 16-year-old school­girl Joanne Cur­tis, whom he would later marry.

There is no sug­ges­tion Daw­son is the sub­ject of any of the claims.

“We have re­ceived in­struc­tions in sev­eral mat­ters aris­ing from his­tor­i­cal abuse in high schools on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches,” Mau­rice Black­burn lawyer Danielle De Paoli said yes­ter­day.

“We have been cor­re­spond­ing with the NSW De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion on be­half of claimants and are now await­ing a re­sponse prior to fil­ing any for­mal claims in court.” While Mau­rice Black­burn de­clined to com­ment on ex­actly how much the claimants were seek­ing, other le­gal ex­perts told The Satur­day Tele­graph they could range from $100,000 to $1 mil­lion each.

It comes as NSW Po­lice con­tinue their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged sex­ual abuse. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is fo­cus­ing on three high schools in par­tic­u­lar — at Cromer, Frenchs For­est and Bea­con Hill. The Tele­graph un­der­stands the claimants be­ing rep­re­sented by Mau­rice Black­burn are con­nected with the mat­ters NSW Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

For­mer stu­dents who at­tended Cromer High in the 1980s said they were hope­ful the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment would give pay­outs to vic­tims to recog­nise their suf­fer­ing.

Jane Muir was school cap­tain in 1983 and told The Satur­day Tele­graph there were sev­eral teach­ers be­sides Chris Daw­son who made sex­ual ad­vances to stu­dents.

Ms Muir, now 53, said one teacher in par­tic­u­lar had made ad­vances to­wards mul­ti­ple girls, in­clud­ing her­self.

“It was a cul­ture where teach­ers and the stu­dents mixed quite read­ily … there was a lot of un­der­age drink­ing and we saw them at par­ties,” she said. “I know my­self, I didn’t think much of it. I as­sumed that it was the norm.

“I was grabbed by a male teacher I was babysit­ting for, he tried to kiss me.”

Ms Muir said some for­mer stu­dents had been badly af­fected by what hap­pened to them and de­served jus­tice.

Roslyn Tay­lor was at the school from 1979-1985 and also said it was com­mon for stu­dents to drink with teach­ers.

“It def­i­nitely would have been a cul­ture, and kids were quite vul­ner­a­ble at that par­tic­u­lar age and the scene of drink­ing with older peo­ple, to be in the in crowd, it was def­i­nitely part of the cul­ture of that par­tic­u­lar time,” she said.

Ms Tay­lor said while she had not been a vic­tim she knew peo­ple who were taken ad­van­tage of by teach­ers.

Robyn Wheeler at­tended the school un­til 1983 and has pro­vided po­lice with the names of 10 teach­ers al­leged to have harassed stu­dents.

She said there were some peo­ple still work­ing in the Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment with in­for­ma­tion about what hap­pened who were scared to speak out.

“Peo­ple who work for the de­part­ment who were at Cromer or at other schools at the time have spo­ken to me and pro­vided me with in­for­ma­tion and leads, but did not wish to be named be­cause their kids are at schools (on) the north­ern beaches or they are em­ployed by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and they can’t be seen to be (speak­ing out),” Ms Wheeler said.

“There is still an el­e­ment of peo­ple be­ing afraid to speak out be­cause they would jeop­ar­dise their po­si­tion.”

A De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spokesman said they were let­ting po­lice in­ves­ti­gate.

“The de­part­ment is re­ly­ing on the highly trained of­fi­cers of the NSW Po­lice Force to in­ves­ti­gate all claims in these mat­ters with the dig­nity and re­spect the sur­vivors de­serve,” the spokesman said.

“The de­part­ment is pro­vid­ing every as­sis­tance to the po­lice to en­sure every sur­vivor of the past is heard.

“The po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion makes it in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the de­part­ment to com­ment fur­ther.”

Chris Daw­son steps off a plane in Syd­ney on Thurs­day. There is no sug­ges­tion he is the sub­ject of any of the com­pen­sa­tion claims.

Joanne Cur­tis (left) leaves her Dee Why unit yes­ter­day morn­ing. Pic­ture: John Grainger

Robyn Wheeler and Roslyn Tay­lor both at­tended Cromer High.

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