Abuse in State Care: Former Dilworth student tells Royal Commission he was 'predated upon' by reverend, teacher

Warning: This article discusses sexual abuse.

A victim of historical abuse at the country's wealthiest school has detailed the violence meted out to students, and the control and sexual predation by some staff.

Neil Harding told the Royal Commission he always thought of his experiences at Dilworth School as attempted abuse, but now knows it was abuse.

At 11 years-old, Harding knew life at Dilworth would be tough. He was a placid child entering an all-boys Anglican boarding school.

"I tried to practise invisibility. I found being invisible made me less of a target," he told a hearing on Monday.

But he says sometimes he was caught off-guard.

"My time at Dilworth was really much like a Lord of the Flies-type environment, where the big boys made up the rules - but the difference was for me was we were being predated upon by staff," Harding said.

The late Reverend Peter Taylor was one of those men. He was nicknamed Pumper Pete by the students - and one day Neil, who was now 12, found out why.

"I sat down in the corner of the room cross-legged and he sat down cross-legged facing me so I was trapped," Harding recalled.

"He proceeded to place his left hand on my right knee and started to move his hand up my thigh. So I grabbed his hand, pushed it away, leapt to my feet and ran out of there."

He never told anyone, but later learned of another student's experience.

"He was allegedly sexually abused by Reverend Peter Taylor. I have been informed that he told the school at the time and was never believed."

Harding says he was also taken advantage of by another staff member.

"[He] said to me out of the blue 'I want to cane you'... [I replied] 'I'd have to do something wrong first, sir, wouldn't I?' and he said 'I'll be watching'."

He was later caned by that man.

Harding has tried for years to raise his concerns about the abuse he and others experienced at Dilworth.

Finally in 2018, he worked with the Trust's Board to develop a Child Safety Policy.

"I'm really confident now that the Dilworth now is not the Dilworth that I experienced," he said.

And people are having to face questions in court over what happened historically. Seven men face sex and drugs charges in relation to alleged abuse at Dilworth from the 1970s to 2000s.

But today Harding finally had his chance to be heard.

"To have a room full of people who are actively listening to what I have to say is really validating," he said.

He's encouraging any other abused old boys who haven't come forward to do so.