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Dr Ian Paterson Oversaw Knox Grammar Child Abuse

In its final report in 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in Australia determined that Dr Ian Paterson intentionally covered up allegations of abuse as the headmaster of the Knox Grammar School in Wahroonga, NSW.

The commission’s review covers child sexual abuse claims between 1970 to 2009. Despite overwhelming evidence and five convictions against teachers under his watch, Paterson denied any responsibility and walked away without repercussions. But the former educator and supposed protector of children was allowed to retire quietly and face no consequences.

Who is Dr Ian Paterson?

Dr Ian Paterson was the headmaster of Knox Grammar School in Wahroonga, NSW, from 1969 until his retirement in 1998. He was responsible for the safety and well-being of students during that time.

According to the commission,

“A former headmaster of Knox, Dr Ian Paterson, told the Royal Commission that, during his 29 years in the role, he was only aware of one instance of sexual abuse involving Mr Vance.”

However, the commission didn’t agree with his assessment.

What Did the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Determine?

The 104-page report did not agree with the former educator’s testimony.

“The Royal Commission found that was clearly incorrect and that Dr Paterson was aware of allegations in relation to Mr Nisbett, Mr Treloar, Mr Stewart and an ‘affair’ between (a student) and teacher, known as ARZ.”

According to the commission, Paterson was made aware of the following allegations during his time as headmaster:

  • Indecent touching by teacher Barrie Stewart
  • Inappropriate touching and comments by teacher English teacher John Nisbett
  • Sexual Abuse by teacher Craig Treloar
  • Sexual relationship between a housemaster and 16-year-old student

The report also includes an incident in which a balaclava-clad man sexually assaulted a 14-year-old student in a school boarding house dormitory. Despite suspecting the resident master, Chris Fotis, Paterson told staff it was a “deranged Asian man” and didn’t report the attack to anyone.

However, despite these serious allegations, Paterson did not take action to prevent further abuse. The commission found that he failed to protect students and was, therefore, partially responsible for their suffering.

What may be worse, the report suggests the headmaster’s attitude was “dismissive” when safeguarding students. He also gave glowing references to teachers he knew were abusing children. One such reference went to Chris Fotis—the man he suspected of assaulting the 14-year-old student.

The former headmaster told investigators he didn’t think it was illegal for a teacher to proposition a student sexually after a student reported an incident from when she was 16 at the school.

He didn’t report any of the allegations to the police, and the abusers continued working at the school.

Did the Knox Grammar Headmaster Face Any Charges?

No. Paterson is still free today despite helping shape and support a culture of abuse that shamed victims from coming forward and five teachers at Knox Grammar being convicted for sexually assaulting students.

One victim told the commission,

“Boys who did speak up were “victimized and ostracised … They were seen as weak, and they became everybody’s bitch.”

Paterson has walked away with no consequences for his actions, leaving countless victims of child sexual abuse in his wake. But this shameful record should not go unnoticed, and the commission’s report should clarify that we must do better to protect our children from abuse. We can start by holding those responsible for such crimes accountable for their actions.​

Do you think Dr Ian Paterson should be held accountable for his failure to protect students at Knox Grammar School? Have you experienced institutional child sexual abuse? We want to help you get justice. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.​

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