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Chronology Bendigo SDS - a history of Cover-ups, Victimisation and Abuse

28 February 2016

Whistleblower "WB" begins work at Bendigo SDS as a teacher. Previous

teaching positions - exemplary conduct since 1995.
Principal professional and kind, however:
Restraint and seclusion used routinely. Documented by staff and in
Lockable cages made of pool fencing erected in classrooms. Referred to
in documents as "individual yard in the classroom".
Variety of outdoor pens with locks and other lockable rooms to lock up
students with disabilities.
Behaviour policies are punitive, based on negative consequences for
behaviours of concern, including the use of restraint and seclusion and
involvement of the police.
Student behaviour plans include restraint and seclusion.
No requirement for intensive psychological assistance.
Until October 2015, seclusion was a breach of DET policy.


WB's wife has been teaching since 1992 and begins work at Bendigo
September 2007
A "Personal Development Plan 2007" is completed for WB. In the area
for Principal Comment WB is described as being an "outstanding and
reflective" teacher, having a "thoughtful and considered approach" in
working with students, a "special ability to develop an effective and
positive classroom team" and is thanked for his "positive support".


Principal resigns and Julie Hommelhoff appointed new Bendigo S DS

Principal organises martial arts and pressure point training for Bendigo
SDS teachers by black belt James Sumarac.

Principal oversees building of empty outdoor wooden structure with bolts
on the outside for the seclusion of students with behaviours of concern.
WB objects to integration aides using pressure points on students with
disabilities and advises them to stop. Integration aide advises Principal.
Integration aides in WBs class begin writing notes, allegedly of
contemporaneous events occurring in the classroom.
All behaviour plans signed off by Principal and/or Vice Principal. They

contain strategies such as taping children's wrists together, restraining
them and locking them up.


Covert notes result in 39 complaints made by the Principal to WB on 26th

of February 2010 about alleged conduct. The complaints go back to
March 2009. It is almost impossible to respond to the complaints due to
the fact that they go back approximately one year ensuring that WB
cannot defend himself. No natural justice, and a breach of the complaints
Allegations include inappropriate handling of students causing pain,
injury and distress. Allegations of bruising, however inexplicably no
photographs taken at the time - no incident reports made. Despite the
seriousness of the accusations, staff including the Principal are content
that notes are taken and the actual inappropriate handling is ignored and
allowed to allegedly continue. In other words, if the allegations were true,
the emphasis by staff and the principal was on gathering evidence
against WB, not protecting the students. If the allegations were actually
true, the childrens safety was put at risk as staff were busy taking notes
but were not interested in immediate intervention to protect the children.
Breach of mandatory reporting guidelines. Breach of duty of care. Breach
of departmental policy.
Numerous written complaints are made about WB from the integration
aides, some as puerile as the fact that WB had not had a shower
(documented). This particular complaint was from the aide directed by
WB not to use pressure points. The same aide alleges that a contractor
to the school has complained to her that WB is comparing students to
animals, however documents show that this is in fact was what the
contractor said (documented). He was the "expert" behaviour consultant
organised by the Principal to assist staff. No behaviour qualifications.
WB is accused by the Principal of not providing enough detail in his
individual education plans, including not having backup plans for his
educational plans, in preparation for environmental change. He is
advised that this is a breach of departmental guidelines.
WB is instructed not to contact staff members at Bendigo SDS, the effect
of this is he cannot contact staff members who can support him in the
disciplinary procedures against him. He is advised later that this is not a
lawful instruction.
6 October 2010
WB informs Regional Director Ron Lake of violence against students at
Bendigo SDS. Mr Lake does not respond or ask for any further details
despite some of the claims constituting assault and false imprisonment.


12 January 2011
Regional Director Ron Lake endorses the approach taken by Bendigo
SDS Principal in relation to disciplinary procedures on the basis of lack of
detail in Individual Education Plans and failure to follow Departmental
procedure. He sets out the requirements for individual education plans in
paragraphs 14, 15, 34, 36, 39 and 46 of his correspondence.
26 January 2011
Mr Ron Lake advised in writing of students being locked in cages. He
does not respond or ask for further information.

February 2011.
WB is terminated and appeals.
24 February 2011
WB writes to Regional Director Ron Lake and asks that DET witnesses in
his defence be contacted to give evidence. Mr Lake writes back and says
that in his view those witnesses could not provide relevant information.
He refuses to contact them. The Bendigo SDS Principal is also asked to
contact staff in order that they could provide information in support of WB
in order that a balanced investigation of accusations is conducted. This
does not happen.

Bendigo SDS Principal claims falsely in a letter that WB is attending a

centre for anger management. Proven to be false. Defamatory. No
consequence for fabricating this false information.
The "Personal Development Plan 2007" is provided as evidence against
WB. Not realising WB had a copy of the original, the Principal Comment
has been rewritten by the current Principal and the document is put
forward as being the genuine Personal Development Plan 2007. The
positive comments have been deleted. It is dated 5/2/08 and signed by
the current Principal. Later, WB contacts in writing the then Deputy
Secretary Monique Dawson, current Regional Director Jeanette
Nagorcka and Conduct and Ethics staff member Carmel White about the
fraudulent changing of documents and provision of those to the
Disciplinary Appeals Board. No one interested in investigating the matter.
Deputy Secretary Darrell Fraser is informed of the termination of WB.
* Elsewhere in Victoria
At the same time the Bendigo SDS Principal, Regional Director and
Deputy Secretary are endorsing the termination process against WB
involving failure to write sufficiently detailed Individual Education Plans,
DET are giving evidence in the Federal Court (K v State of Victoria
[2011] FCA 1301) that individual education plans do not even need to

exist in writing and can be the same document as a school report - this
case also related to a special school. In the Federal Court case Abela v
State of Victoria [2013] FCA 832 DET staff gave evidence that informal
(for example unwritten) individual education plans are proper and
acceptable, for example see decision at [129]. The same Legal
Department that were involved in the termination process against WB,
are also overseeing the evidence given in these two Federal Court
cases. WB is being held to a standard that is at the same time being
renounced under oath at the Federal Court.
DET holds the same position year after year while defending its staff.
Regional Director Peter Greenwell confirms in writing 29/1/15 that DET
guidelines are just "guidelines". They do not need to be followed. Except
if you are WB.

* Elsewhere in Bendigo
Regional Director Jeanette Nagorcka is, in writing, defending criticisms of
the regional psychologist and claims his Behaviour Management Plan for
a young student with a disability subjected to repeated restraint and
seclusion is adequate. The "plan" consists of a few sentences drawn
from approximately 6 different documents.

Accusations of inadequate individual education planning not

substantiated by Disciplinary Appeals Board. WB terminated on the
basis of inappropriate treatment of students on the evidence of Bendigo
SDS staff who failed to mandatorily report their claims and held back
details of the alleged inappropriate until months later. No other staff
member at Bendigo SDS, despite the widespread use of restraint,
violence and seclusion, is subjected to the same process.
DET teachers across Victoria continue to be defended in court by DET
for having individual education plans in their head, or plans that are as
minimal as one page long.
Numerous discrimination complaints in 2011 and onwards by parents
across Victoria are lodged in the Federal Court involving violence against
students with disabilities. Cases settle, staff remain teaching. Staff
members are not subjected to the same processes as WB. WB's
treatment is extraordinary but supported by Region, Legal Department,
Conduct and Ethics and the Deputy Secretary.
WB's wife, also at Bendigo SDS, is a witness at the Disciplinary Appeals
Board hearing. As a result, she begins to be targeted with complaints,
despite having an unblemished teaching record for almost 20 years.


WB's wife continues to be subjected to complaints. These include:

Accusations made without supporting evidence.
Accusations, which when checked with the alleged accuser, had not
even been made.
Decisions made against WB's wife before putting the accusations to her
and receiving a response.
Principal and Vice Principal consistently decide in favour of anyone
making a complaint against WB's wife, simply putting that they doubt the
accuser would fabricate the evidence or finding any complaint
"substantiated" on the word of an accuser. E.g. "there is no reason for
me to believe that xxxx would fabricate the report he made to me" 9/3/12
Vice Principal Angela Bysouth.
WB's wife is directed in writing not to act in a particular way "again", but
when requests information about what is meant and details of the
claimed "inappropriate behaviour", is refused an answer (7/3/12).
The complaints by WB's wife of bullying and victimisation are all
unsubstantiated. All complaints against WB's wife substantiated.
Correspondence in 2012 dated 18, 19, 20 February, 7, 9 March 2012.
Bendigo SDS Principal and Vice Principal take out Intervention Order
against WB, who simply agrees to avoid more distress.


WB's wife resigns due to victimisation.

WB's wife is advised by staff that the Bendigo SDS Vice Principal had
contacted the special school in the region and told them not to employ

October 2014
Casual Staff Member at Bendigo SDS observes staff member using
pressure points and reports incident. Bendigo SDS Principal refutes
claim despite direct observation and reporting.
Casual Staff Member never employed again.


12 January 2015
Disability Advocate writes to Regional Director Jeanette Nagorcka and
advises pressure points being used at Bendigo SDS.
1 April 2015
Jeanette Nagorcka writes to Disability Advocate saying that the Bendigo

SDS Principal assures her that pressure points are not used. Ms
Nagorcka suggests that if the Disability Advocate has "further specific
details" that she should provide these to her. Ms Nagorcka has the
specific details. She had already been copied into an e-mail dated 9
March 2015 from the Casual Staff Member outlining the incident. She
fails to contact him in her "investigation".
5 May 2015
Casual Staff Member questions why he has been designated as not
working for Bendigo SDS in the future. SDS Principal claims that the Vice
Principal called him a number of times for work and did not receive a
response. Casual staff member repeatedly requests that in writing from
the Vice Principal, knowing it to be false. Vice Principal will not back up
Principal by putting it in writing.

8 April 2015
WB's wife receives an e-mail from ANZUK teaching recruitment agency
saying her availability has been "permanently removed" from the booking
system due to it being "unfair" to keep her on the list in the anticipation
that they give her work. No explanation given.
18 August 2015
Disability Advocate writes to Minister James Merlino referring to repeated
correspondence to him regarding abuse at Bendigo SDS and tells him
that if he does not act she will release the documents she has on same.
Announcement of investigation into Bendigo SDS. DET promise
contributors anonymity and confidentiality.
October 2015
Investigators provide the names and contact details of all contributors to
the investigation at that date to DET North-West Region. DET examine
names and contact details and contact all contributors, resulting in
widespread communications occurring in the community regarding the
breaching of all anonymity and confidentiality commitments for those
contributing to the investigation.
The DET Integrity and Assurance Division decide to conduct an
"independent" hearing into victimisation complaints. The "independent"
unlicensed investigator immediately meets with the DET Legal
Department, rendering their independence redundant. Repeated
requests to explain how the investigators can be independent while at
the same time meeting with the Legal Department are not responded to.
July 2015
Disability Advocate submits to the Federal Senate Inquiry into the Abuse
of People with Disabilities. The majority of the 70 page document details
the abuse of students in Victorian schools. The submission alleges the
use of cages and hands at Bendigo SDS and includes photographs.

29 September 2015
DET Secretary Gill Callister responds to the Disability Advocate' s
submission. She does not refute one allegation made in the submission,
but instead launches an extraordinary attack on the Advocate.
* Elsewhere in Australia
Principal In the ACT is immediately stood down due to authorising cages
for the seclusion of students with disabilities.

Due to WB's wife being unable to obtain any ongoing position in NorthWest Region since giving evidence in the Disciplinary Appeals Tribunal,
and being advised of e-mails circulating encouraging schools not to
employ her, WB and his wife decide to leave Victoria.
Ron Lake named in IBAC corruption enquiries.
Darrell Fraser named in IBAC corruption enquiries.
SDS Principal alleges breach of Intervention Order against WB due to his
comments on a disability Facebook page, continuing to whistleblow on
abuse at Bendigo SDS.
Violence against Bendigo SDS students witnessed by staff.
Pressure points-staff using the knuckles to create pain in students by
pressing behind the ears, or under their jaw or arms.
Physical wrestling or throwing of students to the ground.
Staff sitting on students.
Students tied to chairs.
Students being moved by staff pulling up their trousers or underpants.
Students left in seclusion on their own for hours.
Staff pushing a child off his bike deliberately.
Staff grabbing children by the throat.
Staff slapping a child across the face.

Reasonable conclusions to be drawn from the information (much of it documented)


DET condones violence against, and abuse of, students with disabilities.
Either WB and his wife had been subjected to some of the most serious
victimisation in Victoria, or DET staff are perjuring themselves to the Federal
Court of Australia with the imprimatur of the Legal Department and senior
DET officials. Or both.
DET have known about the caging of children at Bendigo SDS since 2010.
While the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, referring to the
violence, restraint and seclusion of students in schools refers to such actions
being a "national shame" (p115 of the report), DET continue to protect senior
and junior staff involved in such activities at the expense of vulnerable
children with disabilities.