Preyed-on students make bid for compo
The NSW 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.
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 the podcast series The Teacher’s Pet, which investigated the alleged murder of Lynette Dawson by her husband Chris, who moved his schoolgirl lover into their home just two days after his wife vanished in 1982.
There are believed to be several claimants, including at least one who went to Cromer High, the school where Mr Dawson had an affair with 16-year-old schoolgirl Joanne Curtis, whom he later married.
There is no suggestion Mr 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 how much the claimants were seeking, other legal experts said they could range from $100,000 each up to $1 million.
NSW Police is continuing its investigation into the alleged sexual abuse.
The investigation is focusing on three high schools — Cromer, Forest and Beacon Hill.
Former students who attended Cromer High in the 1980s said they were hopeful the Education Department would give payouts to recognise their suffering.
Jane Muir was school captain in 1983 and said there were several teachers besides Mr Dawson who made sexual advances to students.
Ms Muir, 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. Robyn Wheeler attended the school until 1983 and has provided police with the names of 10 teachers alleged to have harassed students.
A Department of Education spokesman said it was letting police investigate.
Joanne Curtis as a teenager.