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Published: 11 June 2019
Author: Jessica Steele and Ian Dallas

Dark tales continue to emerge from Geelong Grammar

Geelong Grammar School, once renowned for its exceptional teaching staff and prestigious alumni, has in the past few years grappled with the less flattering association with paedophile employees. This is occurring years after the work of the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse has been completed.

Five staff members at the school have now been convicted of child sex offences – Graham Dennis, John Buckley, Stefan Van Vuuren, Philippe Trutmann and John Harvey. Now another former staff member is facing the scrutiny of the court system.

David Brian Mackey, the resident doctor of the school over more than 30 years, is facing over 30 charges of indecent assault against former students, ranging from 1968 to 1989. Many of the allegations relate to Mackey abusing children when they came to him for medical examinations and include both male and female victims.

But this won’t be the first time in the dock for Mackey, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to a charge of rape and of indecent assault against two female patients. In a disappointing result for his victims, Mackey’s sentence of two and a half years was wholly suspended, due to his ill health and the ill health of his wife, whom Mackey was caring for.

Mackey has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which are due to be heard in October 2019.

The School and the Commission

On 14 February 2017 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual abuse released its 32nd case study. This study looked specifically at Geelong Grammar School and its response to suspicions or complaints of sexual abuse perpetrated against students by staff, including teachers and boarding staff.

The Commission heard from 13 former students and heard shocking details of abuse which was rife between 1956 and 1989. The Commission’s criticisms of the school management included failing to respond to or inform police of complaints of sexual abuse and allowing convicted sex offenders to continue teaching young students, often who were all the more vulnerable as boarders. The Commission also heard the harrowing tale of a 14-year-old boarder who was courageous enough to complain to the school of the sexual abuse he was suffering, and was expelled in response.

Compensation payout of $1.1 million

In late 2018, an abuse survivor from Geelong Grammar School was awarded $1.1 million in compensation, despite having previously settled for a nominal amount, after it was revealed that the school had acted in bad faith during previous settlement negotiations by failing to disclose that they had knowledge that the perpetrator was a paedophile. For more information on this story, see What $1.1m Geelong Grammar payout means for abuse survivors.

The school recently announced that it will join the National Redress Scheme, which can provide applicants with funding for counselling, a personal apology and a redress payment, as well as developing its own Redress Framework.

Survivors of abuse at Geelong Grammar School are welcome to contact our office on (03) 9238 7878 for a sensitive, confidential and free of charge discussion about their matter, and what your legal options may be.

We would encourage all survivors to ensure they are adequately supported over the coming months, when updates on this case are likely to be published in the media and may trigger distressing memories for you. Geelong Grammar School also states on its website:

The School continues to provide the services of an independent counsellor, Pauline Ryan, for anyone within our community who may benefit from coun-selling or support in regard to issues of childhood sexual abuse. Pauline can be contacted directly during business hours by calling 1800 799 139. The School’s Survivor Liaison Coordinator, Renee Handsaker, continues to provide outreach and support to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, as well as former and current staff. Renee can be contacted directly on 0432 707 355 or via email: renee@sustainingconversations.com.

If this story has raised any issues for you, we recommend you contact the following services:

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Sexual Assault Crisis Line (Victoria): 1800 806 292
Lifeline: 13 11 14
1800 RESPECT (Australia): 1800 737 732

A full range of support services based on demographic area can be found at the National Redress Scheme website.

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