Tasmanian Education Department misled regulators about sexually abusive teacher, inquiry hears

Tasmania’s Education Department misled a regulatory body about a teacher who had been accused of sexually abusing a student, the child sexual abuse commission of inquiry has heard.

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains details that may cause distress.

On Wednesday, the commission heard evidence from a woman known as Rachel* who said she had been groomed and sexually abused by a teacher, Wayne*.

The commission heard Rachel’s mother made a complaint in 2005 about Wayne’s behavior towards her daughter.

Those allegations were upheld but were determined not to have been a breach of the State Service Code of Conduct because they happened away from school.

After a two-year investigation, during which Rachel said there was no support for her or her mother, Rachel made further allegations, including that the teacher kissed her, sexually touched her, told her that he loved her and that they could “have a relationship” after she finished year 10, and gave her alcohol.

Rachel also made allegations in 2007 about what were referred to as dirty jokes and videos.

Education Department secretary Tim Bullard told the commission on Thursday that the dirty jokes and videos were investigated, but none of the other allegations made in 2007 were.

“The department’s response to this was woefully inadequate,” Mr Bullard said.

He said as part of a review of historical child sexual abuse allegations within the department, he read the file relating to Wayne.

“I was distressed reading the file and the way in which the allegations had been undertaken,” he said.

He said the department would no longer consider allegations of a teacher’s behavior outside of school towards a student as not related to their employment, as happened in the 2005-07 investigation.

Department ‘misled’ regulator by omission

Mr Bullard said because some of the later allegations against Wayne were never investigated, he was able to re-open an investigation.

He told the commission Wayne was suspended and reported to police.

In 2007, after Rachel made her allegations, the Education Department wrote to the Teachers Registration Board telling it that the investigation into the 2005 allegations against Wayne had concluded.

It made no mention of the subsequent allegations.

“It is important that the regulator has full and frank disclosure from the Department of Education, isn’t it?” counsel assisting the commission Elizabeth Bennett SC asked Mr Bullard.

“The department, by omission, misled the regulator — do you accept that?” Ms Bennett asked.

Mr. Bullard: “Yes.”

‘The system never believed me’

Mr Bullard, who has headed the Education Department since 2017, has said there were failings in the way the department responded to other cases of child sexual abuse.

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