Over the past couple of weeks you have seen in the media the terrible things experienced by some boys through the 1970s to the 1990s and the culture of
cover-up, which seems so foreign to us now, which allowed that to happen.
You have also heard the School’s apology to those people and their families and the condemnation of what happened.
We can take some comfort from the fact that during that era tens of thousands of boys had very positive experiences and hundreds of talented teachers gave
dedicated service to the School.
But we must not let that affect our resolve to support the survivors of the abuse.
We must also recognise the bravery of one heroic young man who, having been abused in 1987, first reported the matter to police in December 2008. His strength
and courage is to be admired as is that of the young men who followed.
Redress to Survivors
Since 2009, we have been advised of 17 men who were the victims of sexual abuse during the 1970s, 80s and 90s and the Uniting Church and the School has
settled compensation claims with 15 of them. It has been heartbreaking to hear their stories and we want to reach out with everything we have to support
The Royal Commission has recently released a discussion paper on the topic of redress. While it acknowledges nothing can change what happened, there are
ways that institutions can help. Knox firstly accepts its responsibility. It failed those young men and since 2009 we have been working with these
survivors with the support, encouragement and resourcing from the Knox School Council.
This is sensitive work as each survivor is different, each situation unique. Unfortunately the processes can be time consuming, but it is crucial that
we push on to provide some redress. This has included offering both general and individual apologies to victims, independent counselling and compensation.
Just as importantly we have sought to work directly with survivors on joint partnerships. Knox will continue to explore ways we can reach out to as many
survivors as possible though we understand not all will want to do any of this or to have anything to do with us. The School and the Uniting Church
will be working specifically with the survivors to assist them as much as we can, including a young man who left Knox Prep in 2003 who made new allegations
to the Royal Commission.
Knox of the 21st Century
Since I became Headmaster in 2004, I have built on the foundations of reform left by my predecessor, Mr Peter Crawley from 1999 to 2003.
A relentless drive to transform Knox, ‘root and branch’, has occurred and that commitment to change, modernisation and best practice in all areas of the
Culturally and operationally, Knox of the 21st Century has a clear focus where it counts most – on its boys – their care, their development. I live by
the belief that ‘the individual is more important than the organisation’ and that this School belongs to its boys. They are the School and whatever
the reputation of the School is, it is built on the collective achievements and activities of its boys with the expert guidance of our teachers and
the support of our parents.
No other school in Australia and its staff has been subjected to such forensic examination of its child protection policies, training, accountability and
the checking of its staff as Knox.
The Royal Commission received a comprehensive report on Knox policies and practices in relation to staff selection, training, supervision and accountability.
The Commission also reviewed the training of students and the auditing of Knox by the NSW Board of Studies, the Ombudsman, the School’s work with the
Office of the Children's Guardian and our new work with Bravehearts.
All this ensures that boys and staff are not only aware, trained and knowledgeable about child protection issues but empowered individually and collectively
to understand what inappropriate behaviours are, how they are recognised and how we all must work together for a safe, secure environment for everyone.
Below is a summary of our recent submission to the Royal Commission and our Child Protection Policy.
Mr John Weeks, Headmaster