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Alleged 18-year spree of sexual abuse at Tweed Shire schools

A woman has claimed a Tweed teacher had abused as many as 20 children starting in the 1980s.
A woman has claimed a Tweed teacher had abused as many as 20 children starting in the 1980s.

A BANORA Point whistleblower has told a royal commission into child sexual abuse of an alleged 18-year sexual and physical abuse spree by a teacher working at three Tweed Shire primary schools, starting from the late 1980s.

Fiona Barnett said she was questioned for two hours by two commissioners and a lawyer in a Brisbane hotel room on Wednesday after submitting a 27-page report outlining accounts of abuse at Murwillumbah East Public School's Special Education Unit, Tweed Heads South Public School and Centaur Primary School.

The document included 12 signed witness statements from teachers, parents and former students, which Ms Barnett had gathered.

It also included a letter dated March 2006 from Jill Carlon, Chief Investigator for Employee Performance and Conduct of the Department of Education and Training, sent to concerned Tweed Shire parents stating that as a result of an investigation into the teacher "steps have been taken to ensure that the person will no longer be employed or involved in school, TAFE or student-related activities".

Ms Barnett said she knew of at least 20 victims of the teacher but that was likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

She told the commission, known as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, that almost immediately after the teacher began working at East Murwillumbah Primary, allegations of inappropriate behaviour began to emerge.

They include locking himself in a storeroom with female students, a colleague catching the teacher with a naked disabled female student on an excursion and the teacher insisting on toileting female students alone.

It was also claimed the teacher coached mainstream schoolboys in how to sexually assault disabled girls.

Ms Barnett said despite numerous complaints, she believed school authorities failed to act against the teacher.

The 43-year-old, who grew up at Terranora, said she began investigating the teacher and related pedophilia activity after her younger sister almost became one of his victims

She is urging others with information regarding the teacher to contact the commission and share what they know.

"If others don't come forward it is likely that there will be no further investigation," she said.

She also wanted police to reopen the investigation against the teacher.

The NSW Department of Education did not comment prior to publication.

To share your story with the commission, contact the hotline on 1800 099 340 or email registerinterest@childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au.

Topics:  child sex abuse, royal commission



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