The exclusive school that paid a paedophile $64,000 to go away quietly.

Nina Funnell writes on why institutions need to stop doing what they have been for decades – protecting the perpetrator.

Trigger warning: This article deals with sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. 

When parents pack their children off to school each day, they take a small leap of faith. They trust that, in their absence, their children will be cared for and kept safe, and that teachers will do all they can to ensure that no harm befalls a child.

So imagine finding out that not only has your child been sexually abused by their teacher, but that on learning of that abuse, the school Headmaster allegedly decided to award the perpetrator- not the victim- a $64,000 payout.

For one Melbourne family, this is exactly the nightmare they have been living.

In an absolutely breathtaking case, it has been reported that Jonathan Harvey, a convicted paedophile and former teacher of Geelong Grammar School in Victoria was paid more than $64,000 in 2004 by the then headmaster, Nicholas Sampson, after Sampson allegedly heard reports of the paedophile’s misconduct relating to a student.

Geelong Grammar School, where Harvey committed the abuse.

Harvey, who has since been convicted of 10 sexual offences and acts of gross indecency against a former student, told the Royal Commission that when headmaster Nicholas Sampson heard reports about his ‘misconduct’, he did not phone the police, but instead offered and paid the paedophile the sum of $64,000 in the hopes that Harvey would retire early, and that a formal complaint against the school (and accompanying scandal) might be avoided. (The school never contacted the police about the allegations, and it took the victim another two years to feel able to report to police).

To make matters worse, on his retirement, Jonathan Harvey also received a letter from headmaster Nicholas Sampson which commended him on his “outstanding” service to the school during the very period in which he sexually abused a student.


Of course when a headmaster decides to pay off a paedophile rather than risk damage to the school’s media profile, it sends a very strong message to victims in the community: it lets them know that the sexual abuse of children is considered nowhere near as important as avoiding an embarrassing public relations ‘episode’ in the media.

Nicholas Sampson, the former principal of Geelong Grammar School. Screenshot via The Cranbrook School.

It also lets them know that prioritising future student enrolment fees is considered far more important than tending to the trauma caused by sexual abuse.

Since then, Nicholas Sampson has left Geelong Grammar to take up the role of Principal of Cranbrook, an elite private boy’s school in Sydney. Since Sampson commenced there in 2012, Cranbrook has weathered several media storms, after current and former students were implicated in multiple sexual assault and alleged sexual misconduct cases.

-In 2013, two year nine students, aged 15, allegedly sexually penetrated a heavily intoxicated year 8 girl at a party, while a third male student reportedly filmed the act on his smartphone.

– Three months after this incident, three year eight male students were encouraged to leave Cranbrook, after they met with a girl on the grounds of Bronte Public School, where they allegedly took turns engaging in sexual acts with her, under conditions where consent was questionable.

– In 2015, Cranbrook Old Boy Luke Lazarus (aka The Soho rapist) was found guilty of raping a teenage girl outside his father’s nightclub in Kings Cross. At trial, a group of Cranbrook old boys attended in support of Lazarus, as a procession of prominent figures defended Lazarus, describing him as “courteous” and “respectful” with a “promising future”. (This bid to help Lazarus avoid jail time was unsuccessful and he is currently serving time behind bars).

“Imagine finding out that not only has your child been sexually abused by their teacher, but that on learning of that abuse, the school Headmaster allegedly decided to award the perpetrator- not the victim- a $64,000 payout.”

Given this troubling string of events, and the apparent need for strong leadership and cultural reform, one can’t help but wonder whether a man who has allegedly paid off a paedophile (rather than contacting the police), and who has written a a glowing thank you letter to the offender (rather than reaching out to support the victim) is really the most appropriate person to be spearheading that kind of cultural reform.

It’s time we realise the true extent to which paedophiles are enabled and protected by those who surround them, and that for every paedophile who is guilty of a crime, there are many more who share in the moral culpability of that offence.

If this post brought up issues for you, you can get help: Contact 1800 RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service. Ph: 1800 737 732.