Principal admits lauded teacher’s history of touching boys
Prestigious Newington College has revealed that it now believes the late teacher Laurie Ellicott, who was wrongly lauded in an obituary last week, had a history of sexually touching boys at the school.
Headmaster Michael Parker has admitted in an explosive email to parents and old boys that the college had even reported Ellicott to police five years ago and was alerted again to allegations in 2017 and 2018.
"Let me first say we are deeply ashamed of the criminal behaviour of a few Newington College staff members over the last half-century," Mr Parker wrote.
"But we are also proud of the open and honest way we have handled allegations in recent years.
"Since the email, several Old Boys have contacted the College with allegations of sexual touching by Mr Ellicott, which we believe are credible.
"We are torn between the usual right of parties to be heard and the deep feelings and hurt in the memories of multiple students over two decades.
"I think in this invidious situation we need to respect fully the experience of these students.
"I have been apologising to them privately and do so again publicly here."
He reiterated that the glowing obituary circulated last week by the college's director of community and development, Rod Bosman, should not have been sent but, because of "privacy" concerns, Mr Bosman was one of the majority of staff who did not know about the allegations and was therefore not to blame for the obituary being sent.
Ellicott, who taught at the $35,000-a-year inner west school from 1958 until retirement in 1992, died last week aged 93.
The mea culpa follows the school's claims earlier this week that it could not comment on the allegations because they were being investigated by police.
The headmaster's email follows concerns from staff and parents that the school's reputation was being trashed by the handling of the latest crisis.
Mr Parker said they had been supporting the survivors of Ellicott's abuse who had come forward since the obituary, which described the former senior master of the primary school as a legend.
"We cannot correct the failings of our past, but we can be vigilant in apologising for them, working with survivors, and ensuring that this never happens again," the headmaster wrote in the latest email, which has been obtained by The Daily Telegraph.
He said that in April 2015, in response to the Royal Commission, all old boys were contacted and asked to report any allegations of abuse to either the college or directly to the police.
As a result, two old boys came forward to allegations against Ellicott, one from a victim, the other a person who had witnessed the behaviour.
Mr Parker said these were reported immediately to police "at which point the college must not undertake a parallel investigation". He said the victim had been given support.
He said that in October 2018, Newington was "advised by a police officer that they had found no evidence in their investigation to substantiate any complaints made".
In 2017 and 2018 the college was contacted separately by an insurer and by police seeking Ellicott's contact details, which were provided, Mr Parker said.
"The insurer noted that he was a potential witness in a matter, but police did not provide details," he said.
He said the college was wrong not to have a process in place to alert the school's Office of Community and Development of historical child protection issues while still maintaining the confidentiality required.
"Because of privacy laws, child protection files and offenders' names are kept to a small group of people at the college," he said.
"Our alumni office (the Office of Community and Development) was not privy to our files."
He said Mr Bosman had heard "second hand" there were some allegations but he believed Mr Ellicott had been cleared.
"When Mr Ellicott passed away, our Director of Community and Development wrote a laudatory email about him and distributed this to Old Boys.
"As previously stated, this should never have been sent. Knowing how much new hurt it has generated, the College is sincerely sorry," Mr Parker said in the latest email.
"We have commissioned an independent external review of our processes to find ways to better inform our systems and processes while still respecting the privacy of those making allegations."
He said that in regard to the two "small" donations made by Ellicott in 2018 and 2019 to the Newington College Foundation, an equivalent amount would now be donated to a survivors' support charity, which was yet to be determined.
"This is all the information that I have. It is important to me, and to the College, that you have confidence that we will continue to be vigilant in our approach to child protection," Mr Parker said.
"We still have much work to do for the survivors who have come forward since last week's email.
"We will be providing as much support as we can. In many cases they will want privacy and I will respect that."