Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cabinet Out West

It was half expected but a disappointment too. I went to the cabinet meeting out west in the hopes I might raise the issue of justice for Hamidur Rahman. My saga has been nineteen years in the making and I sense the end is near. But not yet.

The idea was to have the new cabinet ministers of Mr O'Farrell available to answer community questions at Western Suburb Rugby League Club in Leumeah. It was successful. I was irritated that my question wasn't chosen of those present. However I left a note with the education minister, so it wasn't a waste of time.

It wasn't a global warming night, so no one would say thousands turned up, but many hundreds did. I dressed neat casual, with black shoes pants and shirt and my Albert Einstein printed black tie. I had been tipped off about the event by a note on the Facebook of Dai Le. I caught a train from Carramar and changed at Liverpool for the leg to Leumeah. It was a chilly night, but I thought better of wearing my high school jumper and just had an undershirt for warmth. I had called the premier's office to register a few weeks ago because I couldn't find the online registration.

When I got there no one knew I had registered. I didn't know anyone. It was nineteen years ago when, as a beginning teacher, I saw a PE teacher at a Campbelltown school inappropriately touching year eight girls as part of a sport activity. I hadn't been the only one to see it. A senior teacher said to me that I needn't report it as it happened outside the Principal's office. I reported it a year later when a class of girls in the new year eight complained the same teacher regularly invaded their change rooms. The teacher later claimed to me he had to because the girls were ornery. He also told me he was a Christian and observed that when one was baptized one felt horny. I was baptized last year and felt many things, but that wasn't one of 'em. At the time I was Christian, but new, not spiritually aware, and contemptuous of the creature that caricatured worship.

Some years later I was working at Hurlstone AHS as a boarder tutor. I had accepted my career was in pieces because of my correctly reporting the Campbelltown incident. I was given a call and a letter from a pedophile investigator who wanted to tell me that the incident I saw had been investigated and was not going to be called an incident because none of the children, who had since left school, wanted to take further action. I told this to my workplace supervisor who was harassing me in the hopes he would back off. Instead it seemed to give him a new way to attack me.

I met Hamidur as I was being booted from Hurlstone. I was the most senior teacher at dinner as regular staff were being in-serviced. Hamidur approached the staff dining table complaining that there was peanut butter on his fork. I said he should enjoy it. He said " but you don't understand I have a severe peanut allergy and if I have so much as a microscopic amount of peanut I would get very sick, possibly die, and it would be your fault."

We got him his fork. I told the staff I would raise the issue with the executive and so wear their displeasure. I did that and was threatened before I was unofficially sacked. I exacted a promise from the Deputy Principal Joe Murray and HT Welfare Richard Purves that they would warn staff about the peanut allergy. Hamidur told me no one seemed to know.

The next year, 2002, Hamidur died when a teacher who did not know of his allergy, ordered him to lick peanut butter from a spoon. I wasn't aware of it but the Department of Education decided I might be too fat to teach Mathematics. I am very fat. As part of my assessment I was asked attitudinal questions about pedophilia. I was offered early retirement. I had been assured harassment would stop when my former Principal Geoffrey Garland retired in 2002. So I opted to continue teaching. I had bought my apartment in 2002 and needed the wage and felt confident with my classroom teaching.

The harassment continued. Hamidur's parents begged me to come forward and give evidence to the coroner. I wanted to but was concerned at the backlash from my abusers. So I approached my new Principal and asked for moral guidance. He pointed out I couldn't raise Hamidur from the dead and the department was acting to make sure it never happened again. I knew I hadn't been alone in seeing the initial discovery. So I left it to the others to come forward. I had also been afraid that if I came forward it would look like I was trying to profit. I though it would be more prudent to come forward after it was discovered what had happened.

I was surprised that he coroner found the incident was an accident in an open finding and that the parents were at fault for not informing the school of the allergy. Meanwhile, my writing on the subject and on many other unrelated subjects, when I had blogged on things and collected links to news articles became the subject of a department of education anonymous complaint and I was threatened with dismissal if I didn't delete what I now know was evidence that the department was culpable for Hamidur's death.

It cost me my career, my superannuation and many other things. My life has been threatened. I have been threatened by ALP ministers. But all I want to do is give my testimony and move on.

No one knew me. I wasn't expected and I wasn't given an opportunity to speak. But I left a question with the new Education Minister. Maybe that is enough.

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