Call for Witnesses: John McMillan at Preshil and Wesley College
Schools are meant to be the place where we can send our children to be safe from harm. A place to gain an education in a comfortable environment that fosters intelligence, creativity, and individuality. However, this expectation of safety that parents have of the schools they send their children to has been shattered by some of the most prestigious schools in Australia.
John McMillan pleaded guilty to a run of sexual abuse claims whilst he worked as a teacher at private schools in Australia. As a teacher who has taught at some of the highest achieving private schools, McMillan pleaded guilty to institutional child sexual abuse offences dating back to the 1970s, which includes his tenure at Preshil and Wesley College.
The former Pres Hill School teacher was heard to have constantly walked naked around pupils; his charges consisted of committing indecent acts with a child, indecent assault, and acting in an insulting manner towards a child.
During his time as a teacher, John McMillan would take groups of students on school camping trips to a range of places around Australia, including Gippsland and Kew. On these trips, it was thought he would commit more sexual acts on vulnerable children who were supposed to be under the protection of a trusted adult.
Some of these boys abused by John McMillan were as young as 11 years old, and his original conviction was for assault on an 11-year-old boy during a four nights trip to Gippsland in 1975. It was during this time that McMillan was working for the progressive school Preshil Wesley College in Kew.
In 1991 it was found that John McMillan would help to clean 12-year-olds genitals whilst they would shower together naked. It was the same boy who later accused McMillan of caressing his thigh during recess in 1992.
A further report gave information that police had charged John McMillan following a long, arduous investigation relating to his behaviour at the Kew school throughout the 1990s. McMillan had taught at the school up until 1996, but the allegations of sexual abuse had started decades earlier.
It was found that on a Facebook page for Preshil alumni, a student commented that they had been sexually assaulted at the school. The post had gone viral with many people commenting with further allegations by teachers, students, and other victims.
Some of the victims were outraged at the original decision, especially with the abuser only serving four months in prison. The victims all received ‘life sentences’; many never recover from the abuse they suffered and may never get the closure that they deserve.
One harrowing comment included that “there was no escape” and that the abuse would repeatedly happen to students in his care. Victims, teachers and alumni are calling for the perpetrator’s schools to apologise and assist with all forms of inquiry relating to all incidents.
Preshil school was founded by Greta Lyttle, but her niece Margaret Lyttle presided as Principal for 50 years up until she left in 1994. During this time, she was either seemingly unaware of the abuse that had taken place under her supervision or had actively ignored the complaints of sexual abuse that had come from her students.
Whilst John McMillan had received an 18-month sentence for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty, 14 of those months included a suspended sentence, therefore, according to Magistrate Gerard Lethbridge, he would only have to serve four months in prison.
The teachers and management staff at Preshil and Wesley College were trusted to care for the children under their institution. They had authority over the children and were given the opportunity to help develop them into well-rounded individuals. Instead, they had abused that trust and authority with repeated institutional child sexual abuse claims.
Whilst McMillan was stripped of his teacher status in 1996, his devastating abuse would stay with the victims for the rest of their lives. He was caught sighing and laughing during the court proceedings, however, due to his ill health, he received a shorter sentence.
We are calling all witnesses who may have been privy to any information about Mr John McMillan throughout the 19070-1996 period. All information relating to sexual abuse or abuse of young people of any type at Preshil or Wesley college would be greatly appreciated.
If you or someone you know would like to talk to one of our historical sexual abuse specialists, for free and in confidence, about your legal options, please feel free to either complete the form below with the best way and the best time to contact you, or you can call us on 02 9283 5599.