Royal Commission complaint about TSS as former student alleges sexual and physical abuse. Photo: iStock
Royal Commission complaint about TSS as former student alleges sexual and physical abuse. Photo: iStock

Former student’s shocking allegations

A FORMER student has made shocking allegations of being subjected to years of sexual and physical abuse starting when he was just 10 years old at an elite Gold Coast private school.

After being enrolled as a boarder in the late 1990s at The Southport School, the student says he was befriended within months by "an abusive group in the boarding house" where he was allegedly shown child pornography and tied to a broomstick for group sex.

The former student alleges that when, as a then Year 7 student, he was later involved in "an inappropriate act" caught by an "outsider", he was caned by a staff abuser until he fainted.

Former TSS student Bill Edgar has reached out to old boys about alleged sexual abuse at the school. Pic by David Clark
Former TSS student Bill Edgar has reached out to old boys about alleged sexual abuse at the school. Pic by David Clark

The former student, now 31, made a complaint to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which led to him receiving early intervention counselling.

In responses to a questionnaire by the commission and an attached statement, the student alleged:

* His first six months "seemed to go smoothly" but he was unaware of being coached and tested by a students and a few staffers in an "already existing abusive group within the boarding house".

* No barriers were placed on shower cubicles and an abusive staffer would supervise morning sessions.

* Students were judged on "looks and trustworthiness" and if they failed to make the group, they were bullied.

Exterior photos of The Southport School (TSS). Picture: Jerad Williams
Exterior photos of The Southport School (TSS). Picture: Jerad Williams

* The first instance of abuse occurred on a private trip when another student performed sexual acts with a staffer.

* The abuse continued once a week to almost every night and every second morning in the staffer's private office.

* The offences were wide ranging and after watching child pornography included kissing, defecation, urination and bondage.

The former student recalled how others in the group late at night at a common area in the boarding house would close the curtains.

The exterior of the Southport School. Picture: Jerad Williams
The exterior of the Southport School. Picture: Jerad Williams

Students were allegedly "tied by others on the floor with a broomstick for hands and a broomstick for feet, or they were tied on a table or against the wall" before sexual acts were performed.

Asked by the commission for the names of witnesses, the former student said he maintained diary notes but the school had many "rich and substantial families" who would not want to be involved in a complaint.

"The common way I dealt with the abuse was to suppress it. Also, alarmingly, some students seem to thoroughly enjoy the acts of abuse that occurred," he wrote.

Asked why the allegations were not reported to police, the student said he had made a complaint to a school staffer and was told "my life would be over" if he pursued the matter.

Exterior photo of The Southport School (TSS). Picture: Jerad Williams
Exterior photo of The Southport School (TSS). Picture: Jerad Williams

"When you are 10 years old, you are not really thinking of the police and I definitely did not feel comfortable approaching them myself," he said.

"Normally your parents guide you in these situations. My parents were over … kilometres away, my substitute parent was sexually abusing me and the response from the (staffer) made me petrified of other authority figures."

The former student alleged he was "screamed at and belittled" for attempting to report the alleged abuse.

"I was branded a liar, a crybaby and pathetic by staff and students. I was thrown in the gutter along with all the other rubbish and left to rot. I felt like someone's play toy and I had no idea what to do," he wrote.

The commission in its questionnaire asked what recommendations it could make or help.

The hearings of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse earlier this year. The Commission has taken numerous personal accounts. Photographer Jeremy Piper/ Supplied
The hearings of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse earlier this year. The Commission has taken numerous personal accounts. Photographer Jeremy Piper/ Supplied

"I would like someone to care and take some action. I would like someone to understand me, set me on the right path in life and give me a life of some sort and a future," the former student replied.

A family spokesperson said the alleged abuse at the school was first discussed when the royal commission asked for survivors to come forward.

The former student has been serving jail time for offences that his family believes relate to alleged abuse at the school.

"He'll never have a life now. I've lost my only child all because we thought we were doing the best for him by sending him to a school that offered so many opportunities," a family spokesperson said.

"I feel sick to think what was done to him at 10. I don't have a family now and I'll never have grandchildren either because of what they did to him.

"He felt he couldn't even talk to me about it because school authorities wouldn't listen and it was his fault."

The commission has declined to comment because as policy it cannot respond to personal cases for confidentiality reasons.

The late Peter (Jacko) Jackson — he died from a drug overdose after battling depression, having been sexually abused at the school.
The late Peter (Jacko) Jackson — he died from a drug overdose after battling depression, having been sexually abused at the school.

But the Bulletin has obtained emails in which the commission's chief executive officer, Philip Reed, noted the former student had been referred to other agencies for more counselling support.

"The Royal Commission thanks (name removed) for coming forward and sharing his story," Mr Reed wrote.

The current TSS headmaster Greg Wain urged survivors of alleged abuse to provide formal statements to police and the diocese to enable an investigation, and to receive the care and assistance they need.

He said the church provided $1500 to survivors of abuse in Anglican schools or institutions within the diocese to use for independent legal advice plus unlimited free counselling sessions with a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor.

The Southport School on the Gold Coast. Picture: Jerad Williams
The Southport School on the Gold Coast. Picture: Jerad Williams

A diocesan spokesman said church schools did not have any input into the process of investigations of abuse, or the outcomes of settlements and the church had an open mind to any allegation of abuse.

"The church has adopted the royal commission's recommendations in offering survivors of abuse the option of an agreed monetary settlement without the need for legal proceedings, or the opportunity to pursue civil litigation for full compensatory damages in the court system."

Survivors could obtain up to $200,000 whereas the Turnbull Government has set a limit at $150,000.

"Parents of survivors of child sexual abuse are also entitled to a full refund of school fees if they funded the education. We encourage anyone with information of child sexual abuse to come forward and be treated with care and compassion," the spokesperson said.

In a report in April this year, the Gold Coast Bulletin revealed police had launched an investigation into allegations of child abuse at the school from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

A Coast businessman said he had spoken to the school after he made public a confession by his father, a retired TSS teacher.

TSS contacted the Brisbane Anglican diocese and as part of its protocol, police were made aware of the complaint.

Gold Coast private detective Bill Edgar, who created a Facebook support page for former students, said the victim had detailed an alleged rape in the dormitory room of the school in 1971.

Royal Commission complaint about TSS as former student alleges sexual and physical abuse. Photo: iStock
Royal Commission complaint about TSS as former student alleges sexual and physical abuse. Photo: iStock

Headmaster Greg Wain two months later wrote privately to old boys urging them to come forward if they or others were sexually abused.

"We can find no evidence to support many of the allegations - which we have also requested police to investigate," he wrote.

An earlier report in 2013 detailed how Mr Edgar had met former student and rugby league footballer Peter Jackson. The State of Origin star died of a heroin overdose in 1997, having battled depression after being sexually abused at the school.



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