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Royal Commission: Geelong Grammar boarding master admits he should have acted sooner on abuse -

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DAVID MARK: A former housemaster at Geelong Grammar School has told the Royal Commission it was an "appalling failure" on the school's part to expel a student rather than investigate his complaint of sexual abuse.

The commission has heard a 14-year-old boy complained to the school that he'd been sexually assaulted by an adult in the boarding house at night.

But the matter was never reported to the police and the boy was told to leave the school.

The housemaster, Anthony Inkster, has admitted to the commission if he'd acted on the complaint other boys wouldn't have been abused.

Samantha Donovan is following the royal commission hearings in Melbourne and she joins me now.

So Sam, can you remind us what happened in this Incident at Geelong Grammar in 1989?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Well, David, what we know now is that from 1985 to 1996 a serial paedophile, Philippe Trutmann, worked as a live-in assistant at the Highton boarding house at Geelong Grammar.

In 2005, he was convicted of the sexual abuse of 40 Geelong Grammar students over that decade.

Now in 1999, 1989 I should say, as you mentioned, a 14-year-old border reported to the school that he'd been sexually assaulted by a man as he lay in his bed at night. And, the commission has heard that the alarm bells really should have been ringing for the school at this time.

We heard yesterday that the boy reported the assault to the school, but it was never reported to the police and he was in fact expelled.

So Geelong Grammar never did anything about this assault and Trutmann worked at the school for another seven years and over this time some staff were becoming increasingly concerned about things like his habit of giving the boys backrubs behind closed doors and spending time with them away from the school, but those concerns weren't acted on.

DAVID MARK: So we know, as you said, that the paedophile stayed at the school for another seven years; what has the former housemaster had to say about that?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Well, Anthony Inkster was the master of the schools Highton House in 1989 when that 14-year-old was assaulted. He's still a teacher at the school and the commission's heard he's always been very well liked, a very respected staff member.

He started his evidence by apologising for the sexual abuse at Highton boarding house and told the commission he feels embarrassed and humiliated that he didn't know what was going on.

Counsel assisting the royal commission, David Lloyd, questioned Anthony Inkster about his failure to act on Philippe Trutmann.

DAVID LLOYD: Can you explain to the commission how it is that, despite knowing what you knew about Trutmann and despite you being someone who clearly had the interests and welfare of the boys in the forefront of your mind, you failed to do anything to get him out of the boarding house until 1996?

ANTHONY INKSTER: Yes, I believe at that stage I had no cognisant understanding of abuse, that Trutmann was held in very high regard. He has, as I mentioned I think earlier, he was a young, very popular person.

I don't think I would have ever understood the term "grooming", which of course I now recognise as that behaviour.

The boys would regularly call Trutmann to come to my room, scratch my back. I didn't see anything untoward at that stage.

Now, of course, in hindsight I understand what he was doing. I don't believe I did at that time, I'm sorry.

DAVID LLOYD: But you must have at some point put two and two together with what you knew about BIW complaining of someone putting their hand under the doona and inside his clothes, on your understanding, massaging his back and what you knew Trutmann was doing to other boys. You must have put that, been able to make that connection at some point, didn't you?

ANTHONY INKSTER: I understand the question and I just don't, I don't know why there was not a connection in my own mind. Again, I believe that I vested trust in the people to whom I reported that the matter was to be investigated and I presumed it had been.

I don't know what happened after that.

DAVID LLOYD: I want to put this to you, you should have taken steps to act much sooner to have Trutmann removed from the boarding house environment?

ANTHONY INKSTER: With the advent of hindsight, yes.

DAVID LLOYD: And, Mr Inkster, do you accept that if you had taken action to have Mr Trutmann removed at a much earlier time, it's very likely that that would have resulted in at least some of the boys who Trutmann abused not being abused?


DAVID MARK: That's royal commission witness Geelong Grammar teacher, Anthony Inkster, and Samantha Donovan is our reporter following the royal commission hearings n Melbourne.