Preyed-on stu­dents make bid for compo

The West Australian - - THE TEACHER’S PET - Annabel Hen­nessy Syd­ney

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.

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