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The case that sparked a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

3 minute read

Mental, physical and sexual abuse
Survivors of abuse

A bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Lyndal walked into the prestigious Toowoomba Preparatory in 1990; it was her first day at the Anglicare private school. Nervous and excited, she was completely unaware of the horrors that lay ahead and how they would change the course of her life and the justice system forever.  

At just 11 years old, Lyndal was sexually abused by her housemaster for 8 months, whilst living as a boarder at the school. 

Too afraid to tell anyone, Lyndal suffered alone and was terrified. Her perpetrator repeatedly threatened her that he would “make her life hell” if she told the truth. She became withdrawn and depressed and on school holidays would beg her parents not to make her go back.

“My will for life was stolen from me, at times I didn't care about the world. Things like my first kiss were stolen from me. Having a first boyfriend. All those sorts of things were... taken. And without permission.”


The abuse only stopped when another student came forward and told the police they were being abused by the housemaster and suspected Lyndal was too. But for Lyndal, the nightmare was only just beginning. Her abuser was arrested and charged, but on the first day of his trial he committed suicide. He left behind a note professing his love for all the girls he had abused; there were 20 names on that list. After his death, the school released a letter of mourning, acknowledging his death but taking no responsibility for his horrific crimes. The lack of acceptance and empathy shown to her by the school led Lyndal down a dark path mentally. For more than a decade, she reached out to the school for their help, acknowledgement and admission of the crime but received no response. In 2001, she decided enough was enough and contacted Shine's co-founder, Stephen Roche and Jodie Willey for help. Together they ran a civil claim against Toowoomba Preparatory School and the Anglican Archdiocese. At a time when sexual abuse was rarely discussed, this case sent a ripple effect around the world, particularly because it was a religious institution at the centre of the accusations. With pressure and awareness of this case mounting globally, Australia’s then Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth was subject to significant backlash; he subsequently resigned. Lyndal felt she was just another case Mr Hollingworth wanted to be swept under the rug. She felt she’d been let down and silenced. The legal battle was fierce, Shine was breaking new ground in abuse claims and setting a precedent for future survivors. A jury eventually returned a verdict in Lyndal’s favour, granting her more than $800,000 in compensation. To this day, Lyndal’s story and Shine’s determination for justice are considered a defining moment in Queensland’s legal history. It was a major catalyst for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse and triggered several legislative changes. As more child sex abuse cases came to light across Australia and the world, the Queensland State Government was forced to review and implement hiring protocols for teaching staff as well as blue cards, to ensure children were kept safe. Lyndal came to Shine broken, angry and at the end of her tether, but her resolve never wavered. Her landmark settlement inspired other survivors of abuse to come forward and forever changed Australia’s attitude towards institutional abuse.

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