Cromer High School. Picture: Simon Dean
Cromer High School. Picture: Simon Dean

Sex was ‘rife’ between students, teachers

TEACHERS and students at a high school on Sydney's northern beaches were commonly involved in sexual relationships, according to a former pupil.

Robyn Wheeler, who was vice-captain at Cromer High School near Collaroy Beach in the 1980s, has claimed that at least six teachers were having sex with six teenage students.

It was at Cromer High where in 1982, physical education teacher Chris Dawson began seeing student Joanne Curtis, 16. The pair's relationship and the disappearance of Mr Dawson's wife Lynette are the subject of The Australian's podcast series The Teacher's Pet.

Ms Wheeler told The Australian newspaper that one of the teachers even climbed through a student's window at night.

"The culture at the school was such that there were groups of men, male teachers, in their 20s and 30s who preyed on young girls at the school - 15, 16, 17-year-old girls," Ms Wheeler told the newspaper.

"You would see them talking all the time, when there were sporting trips or school trips for whatever reason, they would be in the teachers' car, they would be babysitting for the teachers."

She said teachers at the school took advantage of the teens and that one relationship in particular was "common knowledge".

 

Robyn Wheeler was a student at Cromer High School in the 1980s. Picture: The Australian
Robyn Wheeler was a student at Cromer High School in the 1980s. Picture: The Australian


In 1982, teacher Chris Dawson began seeing student Joanne Curtis, 16.

Lynette Dawson, who worked as a nurse, disappeared aged 33 in January of 1982 from the couple's northern beaches home. Two separate coronial inquests in 2001 and 2003 ruled she must be dead and was most likely murdered by her husband.

Chris Dawson has never been charged and has always maintained he is innocent.

Days after his wife's disappearance, Mr Dawson and Ms Curtis, now 52, moved in together. She babysat the couple's two children and the pair married in January, 1984. She would leave him in the early 1990s after the pair's relationship deteriorated.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Ms Curtis told a coronial inquest that Mr Dawson "asked me to marry him when I was 16 and kept hassling me until I said yes".

"We were in the car driving or maybe at school at the office, he just kept insisting this is what he wanted," she told the inquest.

 

Chris Dawson was in a sexual relationship with a student at Cromer High School in 1982.
Chris Dawson was in a sexual relationship with a student at Cromer High School in 1982.

 

Joanne Curtis was in Year 11 when she met Mr Dawson. They later married.
Joanne Curtis was in Year 11 when she met Mr Dawson. They later married.

 

Speaking of the couple's relationship when Mr Dawson was a physical education teacher and Ms Curtis was a Year 11 student, Ms Wheeler said everybody knew about it.

"He was such a huge man, he was a very athletic man, he was tall, and he was extremely heavy set," she said in The Australian 's podcast.

"He was a bit of a rock star because of his physical presence and also his reputation as a first-grade footballer."

Mr Dawson was once a star for the Newtown Jets' rugby league team.

"Joanne wasn't nasty, she was nice," Ms Wheeler said. "Girls of 15, 16, 17 are really vulnerable and to have a man of that stature and celebrity power preying on her, I don't think she would have had too much choice."

Ms Wheeler said parents of students knew about sexual relationships between teachers and teenagers and went to the school to protest. She said those responsible were "the same teachers pretty much year after year".

Mr Dawson now lives in Queensland and his ex-wife's body has never been found. In January, 2014, 32 years after she went missing, police announced a new reward for information about the case.

 

Lynette Dawson disappeared from her home in Bayview on Sydney's northern beaches in 1982. She is presumed dead.
Lynette Dawson disappeared from her home in Bayview on Sydney's northern beaches in 1982. She is presumed dead.

 

Chris Dawson has never been charged and always declared his innocence over Lyn’s disappearance.
Chris Dawson has never been charged and always declared his innocence over Lyn’s disappearance.

 

The NSW Government is offering $200,000. During an emotional plea in 2014, Lynette's brother Greg called out her killer directly.

"To the perpetrator, and you know who you are," he said during a press conference.

"Clearly you don't have any conscience. You have enabled yourself to carry on your life as a lie. There has been no thought or care as to how many lives you have destroyed. Wouldn't you want justice if it was your sister who had been murdered? You can only run and lie for so long."

At Clovelly, in Sydney's east, a memorial bench overlooks the water where Ms Dawson grew up with her siblings Pat, Phil and Greg. The trio hold out hope that their sister will one day be found but admitted not knowing what happened to her was the hardest part.

"We have to get on with life," Pat told the Daily Telegraph last year. "It's too upsetting to think about it. I had to say to myself, 'It isn't fair on my children to be so wallowing'."

Anyone with information about Lynette Dawson's disappearance should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit the Crime Stoppers reporting page.

 

An undated photo of Chris and Lynette Dawson.
An undated photo of Chris and Lynette Dawson.


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