A former student at Melbourne’s Wesley College who was abused by a teacher and a counsellor has settled his claim against the school for what his lawyers believe is a record figure for Victoria.
The school will pay the man $3 million plus legal costs after he claimed he was abused dozens of times at the school’s Glen Waverley campus in the 1970s.
The man, who does not want to be identified, said through his lawyers that he had lived through “shame and guilt and regret” as a result of the abuse.
“Hard as I tried to bury it, it was always with me,” he said.
“I wanted to hold the school to account, to force the school to confront its past and to force them to deal with me fairly.
“The people in charge there today had nothing to do with it, and bear no blame, but in the 1970s the school was a sick and dangerous place for some of the students and lives were totally ruined as a result.”
Laywer Michael Magazanik, who represented the man, said Wesley College failed to protect his client when he was a boy, and allowed child abuse to flourish at the school.
“The initial years of abuse completely traumatised my client,” he said.
“This is a case where one Wesley child abuser knowingly targeted the victim of another Wesley child abuser. And I know my client was not the only student abused by both men.”
Mr Magazanik said the settlement was the biggest he was aware of for institutional child abuse in Victoria.
He said changes to laws around financial payments to abuse survivors, which allows courts to set aside or overturn old settlements if they are deemed unfair, made for a more level playing field.
“The law has been against survivors and that means defendants have been able to force terrible settlements on plaintiffs,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“The days of being bought off under various schemes, church schemes and all the rest of it, for 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars should be long gone — survivors do not need to do that.”
Mr Magazanik questioned why the school waited until the third day of a Supreme Court trial before reaching a settlement.
“When Wesley says today the process was respectful, I don’t know, I think our definitions are different,” he said.
“He had to get into the box and give evidence for two days, including detailed evidence about the abuse; it was hugely traumatic for him.”
Wesley College has been contacted for comment.