The past fortnight of hearings at the Royal Commission has shone light on a dark and shameful period in the history of Knox Grammar School.
Evidence before the Royal Commission demonstrated an abject failure by the school to provide a safe and healthy place for some boys in its care over many years. The hearings highlighted failures in leadership, failures in judgement and compassion. Many of the actions and decisions taken at the time could not be explained and remain inexplicable. The extensive and lingering harm experienced by some Knox Old Boys and their families has been well documented and is tragic.
Parents, students, staff, old boys and all members of the Knox community have been horrified by what has been revealed in sworn evidence.
At the hearings, the Headmaster, Mr Weeks, made a clear, unambiguous and heartfelt apology on behalf of the school, to those who have suffered. It is an apology that the entire School Council supports without reservation, and follows the apology made by the Headmaster and School Council in 2009.
We all understand though, that there is no apology that can adequately reflect the sorrow/regret felt by the School for these failures of the past and the harm that resulted.
In several months the Royal Commission will report its findings on the Knox investigation. In the interim, the hearings at the Royal Commission will demand a thoughtful and considered response from the School. This matter is the top priority of the School Council and I will report to you further on this response in the weeks ahead.
At this point, however, I did want to inform you that the Council and the Headmaster have come to the unanimous view that we should immediately remove Dr Paterson's name from the Centre for Business Studies and from other prizes or objects that commemorate his name. The failures revealed in evidence and conceded by Dr Paterson in testimony, overwhelm the other achievements of his tenure as headmaster that were being recognised in the original naming of the building.
The top priority for Mr Weeks and all members of staff in the days and weeks ahead will be the care of boys at the school today - proud members of the Knox community - who are so upset and confused at the news of what occurred at the school. The staff understand it will be a difficult and challenging time for them and will be doing all they can to support the boys. Mr Weeks will be writing to parents about this support in more detail next week.
You will be aware of the extensive work undertaken at Knox over recent years to ensure the safety and wellbeing of boys in our care. It is a clear and on-going commitment and goes to comprehensive and continuing staff training as well as rigorous screening and selection processes of teachers and others who work with children.
We are committed to ensuring there is no safer place for a boy to attend school than Knox Grammar.
Mr Weeks has been tireless, not only in delivering this safe and happy school environment for today's students, but also in honestly pursuing the failures of the past. He has the continuing thanks, support and admiration of the School Council and the school community.
On behalf of Mr Weeks and the School Council, I would like to thank all those members of the school community who have conveyed their support for the school through these painful days.
We share a commitment to this school: to the education of the boys today and to the generations of Knox boys to come. We know the Knox of the 21st Century is a wonderful school, providing outstanding learning opportunities, with strong and supportive pastoral care.
The sadness we feel today at the failings of the past and the harm done, increases our determination to work together for the very best for our boys and the school, now and in the years ahead.
As we face the future with confidence, we will not divert our attention from those who carry the heaviest burden of past failures, the survivors. Our thoughts and support are with them all, now and into the future.
Mr Peter Roach, Chairman, Council of Knox Grammar School