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Published: 13 August 2019
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas

The disturbing trend of rising sex abuse in school grounds

Often, we hear of abuse occurring within a boarding school or residential setting, however our sexual abuse lawyers are finding a disturbing trend of offending occurring within the classroom and all around the school premises.

Back in time, supervision at schools was woefully inadequate, where principals and those in charge more commonly turn out to be the perpetrators of the abuse. Complaints of abuse were rarely acted upon or dealt with appropriately. While much has improved in recent times, the problem is certainly not historical.

RCT Law has defended  more than a dozen students who have been physically or sexually abused in a school setting. We encourage ex-students who have been sexually or physically abused to come forward, whether you attended state schools, independent or religious schools. We can help you investigate your claim, advise you on your rights and options when it comes to pursuing civil compensation, and potentially provide corroborative material from other past students from your school, to strengthen your claim.

Schools we have brought or are bringing a claim against

RCT Law is pursuing or has successfully brought civil claims for compensation (whether in court or settled out of court) in relation to several schools, including:

  • Camberwell Grammar School
  • Christian College Geelong
  • Geelong College
  • Geelong Grammar
    • Head of Music, Malcolm John convicted of child sex offences
    • Resident Doctor, Dr David Brian Mackey convicted of child sex offences
    • Graham Dennis convicted of child sex offences
    • John Buckley convicted of child sex offences
    • Stefan Van Vuuren convicted of child sex offences
    • Philippe Trutmann convicted of child sex offences
    • John Harvey convicted of child sex offences
  • Marcellin College
  • Peninsula Grammar
  • Preshil
  • Scotch College
  • St Alipius Primary School, Ballarat East
    • Brother Robert Best convicted of child sex offences
    • Brother Edward Dowlan convicted of child sex offences
    • Brother Stephen Farrell convicted of child sex offences
  • St Kevin’s College, Toorak
  • St John’s College, Dandenong
    • Father Kevin O’Donnell convicted of child sex offences
  • St Gerard’s Primary School
  • St Leo’s College, Box Hill
  • St Matthews Primary School, North Fawkner
  • St Patrick’s College, Ballarat
  • St Patrick’s College, Sale
  • St Paul’s College, Traralgon
    • Staff member Gerard McNamara convicted of child sex offences
  • St Thomas the Apostle Primary School
  • Xavier
    • Staff member Willi Kovac convicted of child sex offences
  • Yeshivah, Melbourne

The nature of abuse claims against schools, government and private alike, is constantly changing. The impact of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is still being felt, with civil and criminal cases for historic offences making their way through the court system. Some institutions are scrambling to respond to the wave of compensation claims against them while also planning for their future.

Religious orders, particularly, are being faced with difficult decisions about how to adequately fund the survivors of the abuse their institutions facilitated.

Christian Brother Schools

Recently, it was revealed that the Christian Brothers in Australia, who run several schools in Victoria, are having trouble staying afloat financially given the cost of meeting abuse claims, including their own legal fees.

Also, in the last week or so, two Melbourne Catholic schools, Presentation College in Windsor and St Aloysius Primary School in Caulfield, have announced they will soon close their doors amidst falling enrolments, skyrocketing refurbishment costs, and an increasing focus on the lucrative value of historic properties. See The AgePresentation College talks with 'brother school' about closure plans and St Aloysius Primary School campus to close after 100 years.

While it is not suggested that these schools are closing because of abuse claims, declining enrolment rates in Catholic schools may well be linked to distrust of those in clerical roles and concern about the possibility of abuse in such settings in the aftermath of the Royal Commission.

Anglican Geelong Grammar

The independent Anglican Geelong Grammar School in particular has been rocked by numerous convictions of prior staff for child sex offences, including their in-house doctor of over twenty years, Dr John Mackey, and more recently the conviction of Malcolm John for sex offences against an 8 year old girl. The Court heard that Malcolm John had abused this girl before and after giving evidence at the Royal Commission. See The AgeFormer Geelong Grammar music chief abused girl after giving evidence at sex abuse commission

The conviction of Malcolm John, who had previously been awarded the Order of Australia for his services to the community, did not come as a surprise. The Royal Commission heard from a previous student of Geelong Grammar who had complained to Malcolm John of the years of sexual abuse she had endured from her music teacher, Max Guzelian.

In a disturbing response, the Commission heard from the victim that Malcolm John excluded the student from concerts and orchestra performances after her complaint, and shifted blame on the student for the abuse occurring.

Making an enquiry

If you have suffered abuse in a school setting, or know of someone who has, you can contact our office to obtain confidential, sensitive and tailored legal advice regarding your matter. We have experience bringing claims for a broad range of abuse matters, including against a range of educational institutions for offenders including teachers, students, support staff, and volunteers.

RCT Law specialises in civil claims for compensation for physical or sexual abuse that occurred in an institutional setting. We are the largest sexual abuse legal practice in Victoria and have acted for more than 2,500 clients nationally.

Sexual abuse lawyers at RCT Law have acted for dozens of survivors of school abuse, and our unique experience enables us to data-mine for known and alleged perpetrators according to region and time, as well as institutions where abuse has occurred, making it easier to collect evidence and pursue cases

Our first appointment is free, and afterwards we work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.

You can make an enquiry via our website, by email to, or phone us on 1300 366 441.

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