Life was “brutal” at Timbertop, much like the scenes depicted in William Golding’s classic novel about the descent into barbarity of a group of marooned schoolboys.
That’s how former student BKO recalls his time at Geelong Grammar School’s rural campus, famously attended for two terms by Prince Charles in 1966.
In Golding’s book Lord of the Flies, the stranded boys run riot and turn on one another once they are removed from the rules of civilisation.
BKO, who spent a year at Timbertop in 1973, describes the school campus on 325-hectares of bush and farming land as an unusual and “quite a brutal” environment.
“You’re out in the bush with 14 other boys in your unit and you live very closely with those boys.”
He said it was very different to Geelong Grammar’s Corio campus, where if you did not get on with somebody you did not really have to see them much at all.
“But at Timbertop you’re forced together and it’s a Lord of the Flies type situation at times,” BKO told the child abuse royal commission on Wednesday.
BKO said when he started as a 10-year-old boarder at Geelong Grammar in 1969 it was like an English boarding school with strict rules and no court of appeal.
By the time he was in year 11 and 12, the school had become co-educational and far more relaxed.
BKO recalled that when he was in year six, a year two boy was “completely victimised” by the other boarders at the Glamorgan primary school.
“The treatment of this boy was the saddest thing that I saw at that school.
“I just add, 47 years later, I still hear the timbre and the tone of his voice as he cries and screams and yells. He was just a little boy.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t do anything to help him.”
BKO and others have told the royal commission hearing into five decades of abuse at one of Australia’s most prestigious schools that Geelong Grammar was strict and authoritarian.
“It started with the staff and it worked its way down through the school years,” BKO said.
Victim BKV became a boarder in the senior school on the main Corio campus in 1971 but found it quite different from Glamorgan.
“Discipline was strict and almost extreme,” BKV said in a statement read by counsel assisting the commission David Lloyd.
“It was a pretty severe environment to grow up in.
“I think it was intended to be a place to build character and to be a pretty hard place.”
BKV believes the abuse he suffered from a teacher contributed to him playing up at school.
“Sitting on a secret and not feeling safe won’t have helped anything.
“I don’t hold any grudge against the school but I think there was something about the culture and the way they didn’t stop this sort of abuse happening.”