Student sexually abused by school teacher gets apology from NSW Education Department, 40 years later

Student sexually abused by school teacher gets apology from NSW Education Department, 40 years later

Student sexually abused by school teacher gets apology from NSW Education Department, 40 years later

Updated 14 November 2017, 18:20 AEDT

A former school student who was sexually abused says he now has the apology he has been waiting for, after more than 40 years.

The New South Wales Department of Education was moved to apologise to the man, now in his 50s, after hearing of his grief through the ABC.

Robbie Gambley was just 15 years old when he was groomed by his science teacher, then coerced into living with him.

Mr Gambley said he was humiliated on a daily basis, with the teacher forcing him to ride on the front of his bicycle to school.

Once at school, the teacher monopolised the student, making him take recess and lunch breaks in the teacher's office with him.

"He would touch me every single day [in a sexual way]," Mr Gambley said.

"I had to leave my port outside the teacher's private office. It was there for everyone to see."

'Nobody ever asked if I was okay'

Mr Gambley said at no stage did anyone question the actions of the sexual predator.

"Bonalbo at the time was a population of 500 people. It was there for all to see.

"One teacher that I knew used to walk past the [teacher's] house and I would be out the front, and I think it is unbelievable the teacher did not think the situation was unusual for a 15-year-old boy.

"Nobody ever asked me if I was okay."

Mr Gambley travelled to Sydney to hear the Department of Education's apology in person.

But not before he gave an emotional account of what had been done to him in the school grounds and in the home of the school teacher.

Like many childhood victims of abuse, Mr Gambley said for years he felt like he was the one to blame.

But on discovering his abuser was still working in the school system and had risen to the rank of school principal, Mr Gambley took action, taking his complaints to the police, resulting in a conviction against the teacher in 2007.

Apology a relief and vindication

For years Mr Gambley felt angry that the Department of Education had failed to recognise that court finding.

He said this month's apology from the department was a relief.

The department's legal counsel followed up that personal apology with a letter Mr Gambley said felt sincere.

"The department was responsible for your safety while you were at school and for ensuring you were not preyed upon. [The department) is very sorry that did not occur," the letter read.

The letter acknowledged the trauma of the abuse on Mr Gambley.

"The department accepts and acknowledges that you were sexually assaulted between 1974 and 1976 by Peter John Edwards, a school teacher employed at Bonalbo Central School.

"Edwards took advantage of you, at a time when you and your family were under enormous stress because of the economic circumstances that your family found itself in.

"[The department] accepts that following the abuse by Edwards, you felt as though your sense of self was stripped from you … the abuse had a crippling effect on your ambitions."

Mr Gambley said he was proud he had the courage to take on his abuser in court, and the letter from the department was further vindication.

"Despite what happened to you, you had a core of resilience within you because you were able to take action, and [the department is] grateful for the role that you took in reporting these assaults to police."

At the heart of Mr Gambley's effort is the hope that he has in some way saved another boy from the pain he has gone through.

"That's why I have done all this, to help protect children, to stop the perpetrator hurting other children," he said.

"And I now have this apology, so the healing process is continuing.

"All I would like to see now is for the national redress scheme to get State Government support and to see a federal healing ceremony."