Learning from the Past

Today David Whitcroft, a former student, sports coach and member of staff of The Geelong College, has been sentenced for the harm he caused students here at College many years ago. As I reflected on this I felt many emotions, relief that the victims’ stories had been heard and the incidents brought before the courts, but also a deep sadness that it occurred at all, and hope that it won’t again.

It is one story, among many, of harm in schools and organisations over a long period of time. The measure of a community though, is how we learn from the past, develop appropriate formal procedures and cultivate a culture where checks and balances are all in place to ensure people do what is right in the protection of children. We seek to empower people to speak up when they see or experience something that is wrong, or may be wrong.

Our independent facilitator has received many calls over the past year and a half. People who have never spoken about their abuse have told her their story. For some, it is the beginning of a healing process and for others, a first step in legally redressing what happened to them. These conversations have, in some cases, rebuilt links with the school, and old friends.

Our students created a Loud Fence last year to recognise the survivors of harm at The Geelong College, and early next year a special service will be held for survivors as the permanent installation of the Loud Fence in the Chapel takes place. This work will serve as a reminder of the harm that occurred here, the survivors’ stories and the College’s ongoing commitment to protecting those in our care.

We encourage anyone who experienced or witnessed abuse or harm to speak with our independent facilitator on 1800 260 038 or make a report to the police.

Dr Peter Miller

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