Principal Nick Evans (OW1985)

There comes a moment in history when uncomfortable truths must be confronted. They must be spoken of and acknowledged. Reparations must be made. Apologies must be sincerely offered.

Germany did this after the Second World War. Japan eventually followed suit. Kevin Rudd did so on behalf of the Australian Government to the stolen generation.

I do so on behalf of Wesley College in this edition of Lion to the survivors of historical sexual abuse at Wesley College.

There have been Wesley College staff in the past who abused their position of trust. Who preyed on the young people in their care. Who did incalculable damage to lives. These people committed crimes. Their victims were Wesley College students who should have been safe at school. Tragically, they were not. Whilst these incidents happened decades ago, time has not lessened the damage done.

For this, I apologise most sincerely and without reservation on behalf of the College. I apologise to those who suffered. I apologise to their parents and families, as many of them will feel the pain of these crimes.

The College is trying to do right by the survivors of historical sexual abuse. It has been my privilege in my time as Principal to sit with any survivor who wishes and to apologise on behalf of the College. I use the word privilege quite deliberately, as I hope I have brought a modicum of comfort to anyone so afflicted and who is prepared to meet me, although such comfort can only be small in comparison to the lasting damage done. We are also organising a permanent remembrance of survivors’ suffering, in a form to be agreed with survivors, at the St Kilda Road Campus which will provide an acknowledgement to our OW community of the past and a commitment to future generations. There is a page in this edition of Lion which repeats the apology above and which details some of the support the College can give to any survivor who needs it.

Such an approach to the past is, of course, not enough. We have committed to doing everything in our power to protect current and future generations of children from harm. We have strengthened College policies and procedures which support child safety, community and individual health and wellbeing and which apply to all members of the College community.

The College has also increased compulsory training and compliance for staff and contractors with modules relating to Victorian Child Safe Standards including all forms of abuse, Antidiscrimination and Equal Opportunity, and College practices and procedures for child safety. All students at the College are given age-appropriate training and support in recognising behaviour that breaches Child Safe standards and a clear understanding about who, how and where to report such behaviour.

I feel the weight of this history deeply, not just because it is my job to do so. I was a student at the College at a time when some of these crimes were being committed. It is a stain on Wesley’s history, but one which must be confronted honestly and with truth.

That is the very best way for it never to happen again.

Nick Evans (OW1985)